According to the novelty Christmas song, the Jolly Old Elf was clearly responsible for Grandma’s sudden demise. But was that the way it went down?
Here are the facts as we know them. Grandma had “been drinking too much eggnog” when, because “she forgot her medication,” she “staggered out the door into the snow.” The next morning, family members discovered Grandma’s lifeless body in the street. There were “hoof-prints on her forehead and incriminating Claus marks on her back.”
The song ends with a warning, and we aren’t talking about social distancing and masking. “Better watch out for yourselves,” Elmo and Patsy entreat us. “They should never give a license to a man who drives a sleigh and plays with elves.” Perhaps there should be a law against that.
Speed and Pedestrian Fatalities
We can only assume that speeding sleighs are even more deadly to pedestrians than speeding cars. And that’s pretty deadly.
Speed increases the risk of a collision. At 60mph, most cars travel eighteen car lengths between the moment a driver sees a hazard and the moment the driver safely stops the vehicle. Most propeller-driven aircraft, which we guess are about as fast as Santa’s sleigh, travel about 450mph. In other words, if you happen to be in Santa’s path, you’d better watch out.
Speed also multiples the force in a collision. At low speeds, vehicle collisions usually only cause property damage. At high speeds, people normally get seriously hurt.
A Closer Look at The Evidence
Statistically, Grandma’s survivors have a solid case. But Lexington personal injury attorneys do not obtain fair compensation based on statistics. Fair compensation requires solid evidence, since victim/plaintiffs have the burden of proof.
No one saw the wreck. And, we all know that Santa flies above houses and lands on rooftops. So, at least arguably, it’s rather unlikely that he would have been on the street.
However, there is some solid evidence in support of the claim. There were “incriminating Claus marks” on Grandma’s body. We aren’t sure what those are, but they sound rather compelling, especially with regard to the driver’s identity. Additionally, let’s not forget the hoof marks on her forehead. These facts, along with the Christmas Eve timeframe, virtually eliminates anyone except Santa Claus.
In Kentucky, and the North Pole as well, the burden of proof in a civil case is only a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). So, is it more likely than not that Santa Claus ran over Grandma, even though the accident was on the ground and no one saw him behind the wheel, er, holding the reins? We’d have to say yes.
There is an added dimension as well. Santa was a hit-and-run driver. Most Fayette County jurors intensely dislike hit-and-run drivers. However, jurors might give Kris Kringle a bit more slack. After all, it’s Christmas.
So much for Grandma’s case. What, if anything, does Santa have to say for himself? It might be quite a bit.
Grandma was impaired when she left. Intoxication effects include unsteady balance, impaired judgement, and loss of motor skills. So, if Grandma saw Santa coming, and nine tiny reindeer pulling a sleigh would be difficult to miss, she might not have been able to accurately ascertain his distance and speed. Furthermore, she might not have been able to get out of the way.
Grandma also forgot her medication. The facts do not indicate the nature of Grandma’s condition. That’s something an attorney would need to determine through additional investigation.
So, Santa might be able to use the comparative fault rule and shift some of the blame to Grandma. Kentucky is a pure comparative fault state. So, even if Grandma was 99 percent responsible for the accident, Santa is still responsible for a proportionate share of damages.
The sudden emergency defense, which sometimes applies in pedestrian accident claims, is inapplicable here. This doctrine excuses liability if the tortfeasor (negligent driver) reasonably reacted to a sudden emergency. Flying away to the next house, even if it is for a charitable purpose, is not a reasonable reaction.
We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Lexington, contact the Goode Law Office, PLLC. We are available 24/7/365.