Highlights of A Classic Holiday Hit and Run
Randy Brooks, the troubadour who penned the 1979 classic Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer, probably didn’t intend to write a song that baffles lawyers to this day. But that’s what he did.
No one gets too upset when novelty Christmas song characters die. A real-life wrongful death is much different. These incidents usually saddle families with sky-high medical and other bills they can’t afford to pay, while they try to navigate a path forward without the emotional and financial support of a cherished loved one.
No one, not even the best Hit and Run Car Injury Attorneys in Los Angeles, California, can change what happened. But an attorney can make the present a little more stable and the future a little more brighter for a family that has lost everything.
Eggnog and Medication
According to the song, Grandma got run over by a reindeer, at least in part, because she’d drank too much eggnog and, because she’d forgotten her medication, “she staggered out the door into the snow.”
Grandma’s alcohol consumption could reduce her family’s compensation in court. Alcohol impairs motor skills. Voluntary intoxication (complete loss of physical or mental faculties) or impairment (partial loss) could trigger the comparative fault reduction.
In California, the court will reduce a victim’s compensation in accordance with his/her percentage of fault, if that fault substantially contributed to the victim’s injuries.
Did Grandma’s alcohol consumption substantially contribute to her injuries? Probably not. She could obviously walk, and Santa was off-the-hook negligent, so he probably would’ve hit Grandma anyway. More on that below.Pre-existing conditions, such as whatever Grandma was taking medicine for, never trigger the comparative fault reduction. The eggshell skull rule, which is an exception to the foreseeability doctrine, states that tortfeasors (negligent drivers) take victims as they find them.
When police investigators finally arrived on scene, they found “hoof prints on her forehead, and incriminating Claus marks on her back.” That’s not much circumstantial evidence, but it’d probably be enough to establish liability in civil court.
The burden of proof in civil court is only a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). There’s only one person we know of who drives an animal-powered vehicle on Christmas Eve. Sure, the culprit could’ve been a fake mall Santa, but more likely than not, the at-fault party was the Jolly Old Elf himself.
Furthermore, we don’t know how many stops Santa had made so far, but more likely than not, he was already seriously fatigued. In terms of physical effects on the brain and body, driving drowsy is just as dangerous as driving drunk.
Incidentally, this case also has some jurisdictional questions. The local judge definitely has the power to hear this case. But Grandma’s survivors would be hard-pressed to serve Santa with papers, an act the judge would probably require.
Was it an Accident?
Usually, when we ask this question in these posts, we discuss the difference between a crash and an accident. But in this case, we should address the swirling conspiracy theories that this song has created.
The first involves the children and grandchildren. According to some, they overserved Grandma and got her off her medication routine. Then, although they “begged her not to go,” they didn’t take any steps to physically keep her in the house. They didn’t even walk home with her to help ensure her safety.
Legally, conspiracy theory or not, the Christmas party host could be liable for damages in this case, under the negligent undertaking doctrine. This principle, which resembles dram shop liability for commercial alcohol providers, could apply to some negligent party hosts.
The second theory involves Grandpa. It seems very odd that he just lost his wife and he doesn’t seem too upset. He even drinks root beer and plays cards with Cousin Mel as if nothing happened.
A final theory has the family in cahoots with local law enforcement. The family didn’t call the police until the next morning and, when they arrived, police investigators didn’t do a very thorough job.
All these conspiracy theories are far-fetched, and the third one may be the most unrealistic one. Cursory investigations are very common in hit-and-run cases. Police investigators usually give up quickly in these cases. The burden of proof is so high, as mentioned above, that the race to convict a defendant is more like a marathon. Happy Holidays!
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If you ever need a free consultation with our California Hit and Run Car Accident Attorneys, contact Attorney Sharona Eslamboly Hakim at the Law Offices of Eslamboly Hakim & Sharona Hakim, Attorneys.