Friday, January 06, 2006

C'mon Get (Sue) Happy

Recently, while channel surfing (some behavior transcends sexual preference), I stumbled upon Court TV. They were televising the trial for the couple whose 14 year-old daughter and her friend, were killed in an alleged drunk driving collision with a male teen who had just left a party where, are you ready for this, underage drinking was going on! Shocked? I knew you would be.

So, anyway, here's the details:

• Stephen Bromstrup, 16, allegedly downed several beers that he sneaked into a June 17, 2002, pool party that Barbara and John O'Brien threw for their 14-year-old daughter.
• Prosecutors say Bromstrup raced through a stop sign at 70 miles an hour and plowed into a Cadillac, killing two passengers and injuring a third.
• According to police, Bromstrup had a blood-alcohol level of 0.041 percent when he skidded 237 feet into an intersection at about 11:30 p.m. Although the level is below what Florida law considers impaired, Bromstrup was a minor and thus violated the law. Florida law presumes a person is impaired with a 0.08 percent blood alcohol level.
• Bromstrup pleaded no contest to vehicular homicide and other related charges and was sentenced to seven years in prison in 2003.
• The parents of Sarah Stone (one of the teens killed) are suing the hosts of the cookout for wrongful death.
• The complaint, filed in the 19th Judicial Circuit in Martin County, claims the O'Briens broke the law because they did not "take reasonable steps to prevent the possession or consumption of alcoholic beverages by a minor" at the open party they hosted for their daughter.

The complaint alleges Daniel Downes illegally purchased a 12-pack of beer at A&M Discount Beverage, which he then shared with Bromstrup before and after the cookout.

Okay, so Court TV is televising the trial all this week. I've been watching it off and on (A LOT of it is just reruns...a great way to pad a few hours...those cocksuckers). My initial reaction was "Why are they suing the hosts instead of the person who actually caused the wreck?" THEN I read the article and found out this happened years ago and he'd already been sentenced. At first I was in the host's corner because unless you're omnipresent, there is no way you can be everywhere at all times. THEN I found out during testimony that this isn't the first party they'd thrown where underage drinking had taken place, but apparently it was the first where someone got killed. So, now I'm torn.

Here's my current stance:

First off, it's always awful when someone dies as a result of someone else's negligence. My grandmother was killed by a drunk driver in the late 80's, so I can relate. I can totally understand the need to seek justice from the person who actually did the driving, however, I think suing the hosts of the party is nothing short of money whoring. And that's exactly what it is as far as I'm concerned. No amount of money is going to bring The Stone's daughter back, BUT like soooo many people these days, they feel the need for someone to "pay" for their "pain and suffering." And naturally, when you talk to the parents, their daughter was the 14-year old equivalent of Mother Teresa: she was a born leader, funny, outgoing, everyone looked up to her, she loved life and was gonna find a cure for Cancer by the time she was 15. Sure, we get it; she was amazing. And naturally, " Sarah was openly against the use of drugs and alcohol. She was also an active member in a youth group at a local church and devoted to mission work. Dead people are always better on paper.

I especially liked the backhanded comment from The Stones in regard to The O'Briens, during an interview: "We've never said The O'Briens were bad people, but (and here it comes) we've come to expect certain things from parents who care about their children." Then Mrs. Stone goes on to regail us with a page torn from the Leave it to Beaver Book of Parenting, on how they would have handled the situation. Riiiight. Anybody can say they'd have handled things better after the fact. Puhlease. And my favorite part: During an episode of CNN's Nancy Grace, who I normally agree with, but who was so outraged/distracted by the fact that two attractive little white girls were involved, rushed to whip out her ovaries and sing a rousing chorus of I am Woman, left me cold. So when asked by Nancy Grace if he (Mr. Stone) had a website he'd like to plug, he actually said yes! OMG! I had to roll my eyes at the mere suggestion that he somehow managed to work through his grief long enough to pay someone to create a friggin' web site. And naturally, now the mother (Mrs. Stone) is an active member of M.A.D.D. Isn't it fascinating how civic duty takes precedence once someone has been directly affected?

My point is, yes it's terrible what happened. And yes, I understand the need for justice AND I do think that the driver should be held accountable for his choices. HOWEVER, after listening to the testimony, I don't know what more the parents think the O'Briens could have done, short of being visible at all times (which, as you know, teens LOVE to have their parents around at parties). Some are speculating that they should have called the parents of the ones who were drinking and had them picked up. I'm sorry, but everyone involved in this case is acting as if this is the first time they have ever heard of underage drinking. I'm sooo tired of the wide-eyed looks of shock and the feigning of surprise. PUHLEASE! It's practically a right of passage when it comes to teenagers. I mean c'mon, has no one seen The Last American Virgin, Drive Me Crazy, or Clueless? As long as there are teens, there is going to be underage drinking. It doesn't make it right and it doesn't excuse the behaviour, but like it or not, it is a fact of life.

According to the poll taken on Court TV, they posed the question: Did The O'Briens make reasonable attempts at stopping the teens from drinking?
• 45% say 'Yes'
• 55% say 'No'

Mr. & Mrs. O'Brien claim that once they realized that some of the teens had snuck in alcohol, they made a vigilent effort for the rest of the evening to empty all containers they found. That sounds reasonable to me. The Stones are obviously trying to compensate for their daughter's death by wringing some cash outta The O'Briens. Enough already. If everyone wanted some kind of monetary compensation every time something "bad" happened to them, we'd have turned the legal system into a media circus long ago. Oh wait, we already have. Whose up for some scalding-hot coffee from McDonald's? My living room needs remodeling.

Epilogue: Florida couple cleared of liability in teens' deaths after party


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