Sounding Off: We need more details in crash lawsuit

I am writing about the front-page article, “Claim: Family wants $5M,” May 7. Given the facts that are available today, there appears to be some very troubled logic with the claims in this case.

Many of the comments from the family’s attorney, Marc P. Miles, obfuscate the fundamental responsibilities of operating a motor vehicle and defy the reasonable limits of civil engineering. There are a few statements that need to be clarified before making the city of Newport Beach the primary target of responsibility.

Miles’ comment that the event was the “most traumatic thing his [Ralph’s] parents have ever suffered” is no doubt real and very painful. The loss of their son is tragic and I am sure very painful.

However, the main event here is responsibility. Where is Luicci Abinader’s (the driver) responsibility in this scenario? Driving a car at these speeds involves increasing levels of responsibility, talent and consequences. It was his sequence of choices on the use of the accelerator pedal in those last 30 seconds that is the critical event in this case.

More importantly, where are Abinader’s parents? It is OK for an 18-year-old to “own” a sports car capable of 198 mph. Just like any 18-year-old being allowed to operate a firearm or an aircraft. It’s OK. As long as proper training is provided. We do not yet know if Abinader received appropriate advanced driver training on how to control such a high performance car. To turn any 18-year-old loose with such an automobile without providing this training would reflect a substantial lack of judgment and responsibility.

The claim that the city did not respond in time is clearly not the case. The emergency services arrived soon enough at the scene of a burning vehicle to save the life of one individual.

So time of arrival is not the issue here. Is it a capacity issue? Should the city have deployed twice the resources to parallel their lifesaving efforts? This logic becomes dizzy when applied to a crash involving a bus.

Second is the concept of higher traffic barriers. The supposition must be that the city is responsible to install a barrier tall enough to prevent a vehicle capable of 200 miles per hour, when out of control, from crossing into oncoming traffic. The escalation here is limitless; where do the city’s civil engineers draw the line on new barrier heights when Ferrari debuts its 2012 model capability of 210 mph?

I am hopeful that the family’s true intent is to direct any award in this lawsuit toward improving highway safety and that Miles’ introductory comments were taken out of context. As the facts unfold it will be very interesting to see what Miles and the family’s intentions truly are.

For now the city will have to dedicate substantial resources to defend its logic in the application of the reasonable limits of civil engineering and emergency services. In this economic climate that use of resources defies logic.

PAUL C. CAIN lives in Newport Beach.

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