Stella Case No. 048, Originally Published: 7 May 2003
Charles McCall, 32, was crossing the street at night in Orange Beach, Ala., when he was hit by a car and killed.
Police investigators determined that McCall was to blame for his own death. “It appears that the pedestrian stepped in front of the driver,” the police said. McCall’s blood-alcohol level was .304 percent, or about four times the legal limit for drivers in Alabama.
There was no evidence that the car’s driver, Alexander Kimbrell, 18, had been using alcohol or drugs, and police closed the case.
Not so fast! McCall’s mother, Pat Turner, sensed an opportunity: she has sued Kimbrell for $3 million — $1 million each for his “negligence, wantonness and failure to exercise reasonable care” in the accident. Since Kimbrell was a teen at the time of the accident, his father has also been named in the suit.
Many may think this is kind of a hum-drum outrage, but there is, of course, a twist: what gave McCall’s mother the idea to file a lawsuit against the driver of a car when someone stepped in the car’s path?
McCall and his mother were sued themselves in 1996 in a similar incident. McCall loaned a pickup truck owned by his mother to a friend, who ran over a pedestrian. McCall was named as a defendant in the resulting wrongful death lawsuit — as was Turner, simply because she owned the truck. Surely she was outraged at being sued like that! The case was ended with a settlement, which was no doubt paid by her insurance company. Apparently, she now wants to know what the experience is like from the other side of the courtroom.
- “Accident Victim’s Mother Sues Driver,” Mobile Register, 23 February 2003
A google search as I was creating this page for “Pat Turner” “Charles McCall” lawsuit (quotation marks tell google those exact phrases must be on the page) brought up exactly one hit:
Similar searches for the defendant brought similar results.
My 2020 Thoughts on the Case
Looking back on the source article, it seems to me that Turner’s attorneys found the case distasteful (though they still took the job to attempt to ruin a young man’s life). “James Powell, one of Turner’s lawyers,” the reporter wrote, “declined to elaborate on the allegations. ‘You really ought to read the complaint,’ he said.” What did Turner herself have to say about her lawsuit? “No comment.”
Kimbrell was a juvenile at the time that a drunk popped in front of him in the dark (9:30 p.m.) Is this really how she would want her own son treated when he was already traumatized by such a thing?
And I’m very surprised I didn’t provide the awesome name of the police spokesman that I quoted in the second paragraph. It was Orange Beach Police’s Assistant Chief, Greg Duck.
In a recent Letters section, a law school student suggested that lawyers be socialized — employed by the government and provided to people as a government service at minimal or no cost.
Tom in Massachusetts: “A very interesting suggestion, as you say, but it leaves one gaping hole: what if you want to sue the government? Whammo, instant conflict-of-interest: the government *employs* your lawyer? It seems to me that the government is the one entity I need the most protection from when suing. Contrariwise, who wants the government to have so many lawyers available to them?”
Peter in B.C., Canada: “The publicized waiting lists for Canadian hospital services is an organizational challenge (doctor shortages here, nursing shortages there, funding shortages here AND there — that sort of thing). As for potentially long waits before getting your day in court in the U.S., you write every week about frivolous or goofy lawsuits that clog up the courts, exacerbating an already overworked system. Are you suggesting that the current situation of lengthy waits under the vaunted U.S. judicial system could get worse than it is now? Maybe it can, but since the Canadian medical system solves its waiting list problem by constantly ranking cases according to their urgency, maybe a similar system would work equally well to put the kinds of cases you write about at the bottom of the judicial pile. I’m thinking, for instance, that it might actually be useful to have a system that constantly compares the urgency of the tobacco lawsuit against California to the thousands of genuinely worthy cases in that state, instead of one where the litigant with the most money decides the speed of justice.”
Another “interesting” idea, but if you were sued for something ridiculous, would you want that hanging over your head for years? (Keeping a defense lawyer on some sort of retainer all that time!) Doesn’t sound appealing to me.
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