Patience Pays Off: Our 2-year OWI-Causing-Injury Battle

How would you feel if one of your friends asked for criminal charged to be filed against you and then sued you for money damages? I’m going to assume you would feel hurt and betrayed. I’m going to assume that you would no longer call that person a friend.

This is exactly what happened to one of our clients nearly 2 years ago. He went to a bar with friends, had a bit too much to drink and chose to drive home. His friends were with him in the car and while driving them home, he got into a car accident with another drunk driver (yes, two drunk drivers hit each other). One of his friends who was sitting in the back seat was a surgeon at Beaumont Hospital and during the accident she sustained a fractured cheek bone. She was also heavily intoxicated. Immediately after the accident, his friends all fled from the scene (including the surgeon) and he stayed until the police showed up. He was arrested and charged with OWI, a 93 day misdemeanor.

Later that night, the surgeon made several phone calls to lawyers trying to find a way to get our client out of jail. In addition the surgeon went back to a friends house and continued drinking until the wee early hours of the morning.

The next day our client was charged with OWI, released from the local jail and allowed to go home. While he was heading home, the surgeon went to work at the hospital. She performed multiple life-threatening surgeries (presumably hungover) and failed to mention to any of her patients that she had been in a car accident and suffered injuries the night before. Nor did she mention to any of her patients that she had been out drinking heavily the preceding night.

The next day the surgeon went and spoke to her sister, who is a personal injury attorney. Her sister told her to sue her friend (our client), his employer, and the bar that had served our client drinks. Further, the surgeon called the Detective who was handling our client’s case and told him that she had been injured in the accident, and even though she had left the scene, she wanted our client charged with a felony OWI for causing her injury. Several days later the misdemeanor charge was dismissed, our client was instead charged with a 4-year felony, and the surgeon filed a lawsuit against multiple parties, including our client (her former friend).

In sum, she gave up their friendship for a shot at some cash through a lawsuit – all because she chose to get in the backseat of a car driven by someone she knew had consumed too much alcohol to drive.

From the very beginning of the case we maintained that the only thing we wanted was for our client to be able to plead to the originally-charged OWI. However, while we were requesting that reduction, the surgeon and her personal injury attorney were pushing the prosecutor’s office to proceed on the felony. They were hoping that our client would be convicted of the felony – which would ultimately give them a chance at a larger cash settlement. In other words, they were using the criminal justice system to milk as much money as possible out of as many parties as possible.

We set the case for trial. On the eve of trial, the prosecutor asked for an adjournment. We set the case for trial again and again on the even of trial, the prosecutor asked for another adjournment. They knew their case was weak. We set the case for trial again. With only a couple of weeks to go before trial, we received word that the prosecutor’s office was considering dismissing the felony and re-charging our client with the misdemeanor. At that moment, we knew we had won. It took a good amount of massaging, but eventually the prosecutor’s office did the right thing: They [presumably] told the surgeon that they weren’t going to maintain the felony just to help her in her civil case and they DISMISSED THE FELONY.

We realize how hard it is for our clients to go through such a long and drawn out criminal process. It’s absolutely draining – not knowing (for months or even years) whether you are going to have to go through the rest of your life as a convicted felon. But, as in most aspects of life, patience usually pays off. In this case it paid off big. Felony Dismissed.

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