February 3rd, 2020

The Left Turn Auto Case (And the runaway jury)

You won’t see this appellate decision in any newspaper. You just won’t. It’s not sexy.

Not the actual t-boning at issue here.
Not the actual t-boning at issue here.

There’s nobody famous, the lawyer didn’t sue for a bazillion dollars and the jury didn’t award a gazillion dollars.

Because that’s where the media looks. Fame and money. Runaway juries. That’s what gets the clicks.

Except that this jury was a runaway. It just ran away in favor of a defendant car driver and awarded zippy-do-da to the injured plaintiff. Ergo, no story, or at least no story that gets clicks.

Out of the Appellate Division (4th Department) comes a decision reversing a jury verdict in favor of the defendant.

The facts were simple: A car turned left in front of a motorcycle. The kind of turn you teach your children to fear when they learn to drive. You don’t want to involved in a t-bone. From any perspective. And certainly not from the perspective of a motorcycle.

The view of the turning driver was unobstructed and there was a clear line of sight. The driver admitted at trial that he “never saw the plaintiff or his motorcycle prior to the accident.” There was, in other words, no reason not to “see what what there to be seen.”

The jury, inexplicably, came back with a defense verdict. Maybe they hated lawyers. Maybe they hated lawsuits. Maybe the judge gave them the case late Friday afternoon and they wanted to get the hell out of the courthouse. Maybe they hated the plaintiff or hated motorcycles or hated the lunch that the court officers served to them. Maybe a million things.

Juries are funny that way. They don’t always do that which seems abundantly obvious. They engage in jury nullification, ignoring the law, or simply not listening to the law, or not caring because they have other agendas.

Some auto cases are straightforward. Like a hit in the rear. Or, in this instance, a left turn case.

The trial judge should have tossed the verdict out as against the weight of the evidence. That didn’t happen. So the appellate division did it.

Reversed, as the jury finding “that defendant was not negligent could not have been reached on any fair interpretation of the evidence.”

It’s a tough standard to meet. But the facts as laid out by the Fourth Department make it look like a no-brainer. The case, decided last week, is Cramer v. Schruefer. A new trial was ordered.


July 21st, 2008

Al Pirro Settles NY Car “Accident” Suit Involving Jeanine For 200K

Al Pirro Jr. last week quietly settled a lawsuit for $200,000 that involved Jeanine Pirro and her failed political campaign for Attorney General. Jeanine — also a former judge, District Attorney, failed Senate candidate against Hillary Clinton and now a talk show host — was in the backseat of her husband’s SUV on October 18, 2006 when it sideswiped a motorcyclist as they approached a light. The collision knocked him down, broke his ankle and sent him skidding along the pavement. The SUV was driven by a campaign staffer just weeks before the election.

The crash out on Long Island raised eyebrows when the police were accused of giving preferential treatment to the Pirros. While the officer on the scene first reported a collision between Pirro’s SUV and Scott Lieberman riding his Harley, that report was subsequently deep-sixed after the officer saw Jeanine Pirro in the back and saw that the SUV was owned by her husband. The second accident report didn’t have the Pirro vehicle in the accident. According to this New York Post story at the time:

Lieberman said that after talking to [Pirro driver] Horgan, cops stopped writing a two-vehicle accident report and started one saying he skidded off the road on his own.
“Investigation reveals no other veh. involved in accident,” the final report reads.

According to an interview I conducted with Lieberman’s counsel, Harlan Wittenstein, a copy of the original police report indicating a collision was given to Lieberman’s ex-girlfriend who had been riding ahead and saw the accident in her rear-view mirror as she pulled up to a stop light. The original report clearly has Al Pirro’s name on it as the vehicle owner. The subsequent police report only claimed a motorcyclist down with no contact and no Pirro name. The two reports are here: Lieberman.pdf

After learning the Pirros were involved, the police accused Lieberman of being a fraud as he was writhing in agony. Lieberman, who was taken to the hospital and needed surgery to fix his broken ankle, didn’t take kindly to the accusation.

After leaving the hospital, an angered Lieberman posted signs at the intersection where the collision occurred, whichwere seen by a pretzel delivery man on his regular route. The pretzel man had been directly behind the vehicles, saw the contact between the Pirro SUV as it changed lanes, contacted Lieberman, and his deposition taken.

The combination of the pretzel man’s testimony and the second copy of the accident report with the Pirro name on it, according to Wittenstein, helped to seal a settlement for a case that had originally been marked “no pay.” The police officer has apparently never been disciplined.

Al Pirro — a disbarred real estate attorney who was convicted of 66 counts of tax fraud, whose license has been suspended (and reinstated), has been embroiled in head-line grabbing extramarital affairs, and generally been a burden to his wife’s ambitions — is no doubt happy to get at least one legal problem behind him.

Photo credit: NY Magazine (story on the troubled marriage)


  • What Happens When You’re Run Down by Former DA Pirro? (Greenfield @ Simple Justice)