By: A Staff Writer
A watchdog group is questioning a New Jersey court’s decision to seal documents in a high-profile personal injury lawsuit involving a drunk driving incident that left a young girl paralyzed. According to a news release posted on Public Citizen’s Web site, the 1999 case, which brought the issue of holding alcohol vendors and establishments liable in DUI accidents, is now completely buried under this veil of secrecy created by the courts.
The case basically involves an auto accident caused by a drunken fan who left a Giants football game and crashed into a car paralyzing a little girl. The girl’s family filed a personal injury case against the driver as well as the stadium’s beer vendor and won a $105 million jury verdict.
Last year, an appellate court overturned that verdict and everybody watching the case was waiting for the case to go back to trial. But apparently it never got there. And no one knows why or how because the court ordered that all future proceedings in the case be sealed, which means neither the public nor the media can look at the filings.
What Public Citizen is asking in its motion to unseal is that all filings since June be opened. The group’s attorney notes in the press release that although one of the attorneys involved in the case says in his Web site that the case was settled, there is no indication in the public court files to show that a settlement was in fact approved.
Kudos to the folks at Public Citizen for doing their jobs. This is an important case on many levels. First and foremost, the public absolutely has the right to monitor the courts, just as they monitor city or county government. The attorney of Public Citizen is right. It is up to the people who want the records sealed to prove why they want it sealed. The burden is on them.
Also, this is a case that brought national attention to the debate about alcohol vendors, bars and venues and their roles in a DUI crash. Should bars and establishments that serve limitless amounts of alcohol to their customers and then allow them to drive away be held responsible? Absolutely. Such business owners and managers are failures professionally and ethically.
If you have been a victim of a DUI crash or an auto accident, call Bisnar Chase Personal Injury Attorneys for a free evaluation of your case.
Also here are some other resources for victims of drunk driving: