New legal premise: My fault, pay me

By The SE Texas Record | Jul 12, 2008

It should go without saying if you drink and drive and cause an accident, the fault is yours and yours alone.

Why are we saying it?

Credit the family of Meagan Watkins, who died last month in a one-car crash of her own making after a night of drinking in the Dixie Dance Hall, part of Beaumont's Crockett Street Entertainment District.

The 22 year-old left the bar, got behind the wheel and soon was traveling westward in the eastbound lanes of Interstate 10. Yes, she was going the wrong way on the Golden Triangle's busiest highway.

Watkins eventually collided with a stopped tow truck. Thankfully, its driver--while suffering injuries-- survived the wreck.

Given the state Ms. Watkins was in while driving, this senseless tragedy could have been much worse.

Such thinking doesn't work with her parents. Rather than move on, they're looking to place blame. And not where it belongs.

Jerome Watkins and Melissa Dwyer are suing Dixie Dance Hall, the tow truck driver, his employer, and their daughter's insurer, Allstate, in Jefferson County Court.

In a rational universe, calamities like this one should deter drunk driving. Publicity about such tragedies should lead others living on the edge to tread more responsibly, and cause the "lucky" drunk drivers--the ones who don't get caught--to do some soul-searching about their dangerous conduct.

In some elements of our society these concepts prove subordinate to a more cynical concept of making others pay for one's own mistakes.

Mr. Watkins and Ms. Dwyer are asking for hundreds of thousands, if not millions. Their lawsuit goes so far as to demand an award of punitive damages, so as "to deter any such future misconduct."

And what misconduct, exactly, might that be?

What did a nightclub, an innocent tow truck driver, a local small business, and an insurance company do that the court needs to "deter"?

It seems to us that the only misconduct in this case was their daughter's, with whom this sad story begins and ends. The Watkins family and their lawyer think otherwise.

We're sorry for the loss suffered Meagan Watkins' family. But that loss should not be exploited for a courtroom payday.

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