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Monday, July 30, 2007
Hancock Lawsuit Voluntarily Dismissed
The family of deceased St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Josh Hancock has voluntarily dismissed without prejudice the wrongful-death lawsuit arising out of Hancock's drunk-driving death in April. I previously wrote about the lawsuit when it was filed.
The family dropped the case just prior to a scheduled hearing on the defendants' motions to dismiss and/or to make more definite the claims. The family did not explain its decision to drop the case. The dismissal is without prejudice, meaning the family could reinstitute the action in the future.
Monday Evening Update:
From ESPN.com, Dean Hancock, Josh's father and the Administrator of Josh's Estate, issued a statement explaining the decision to dismiss the lawsuit. The statement in full:
"The subject of my son's death has been widely reported and discussed, as has my motivation to file the wrongful death lawsuit. Often, legal action has more to do with performing responsibilities and gaining control. This lawsuit was not filed for personal gain. Few know that Josh died without a Will, leaving multiple heirs in two separate families in different states. When I became the court appointed Administrator of his estate, I agreed to perform fiduciary responsibilities to protect the interests of his estate and all beneficiaries.
Taking the statement at face value:
1) The family filed the lawsuit on an initial belief that the restaurant and/or tow truck driver might be liable, with the hope that more would come out in the litigation process. Subsequent investigation and inquiry revealed new information and understanding, suggesting that none of the defendants would be liable and that the lawsuit should not go forward
2) The family's goal with the lawsuit was to draw attention to and change the way bars/clubs/restaurants dealt with intoxicated patrons. These changes were happening in the wake of Josh's accident, making further litigation unnecessary. Our tort system is one way that we do social engineering (making the law that changes how people act in the real world), so this make some sense.
Taking the statement not at face value:
3) The motion to dismiss was going to be granted because the dram shop claim could not succeed on any facts (as I argued in my prior post, linked above), because the statute prohibited first-person actions. So the family saved face (and left itself some options) by voluntarily dismissing.
4) I question the new-found concern for the "prolonged legal battles which we would have to fight" as a neutral basis for dismissing the lawsuit. I find it difficult to believe that Mr. Hancock did not realize that the lawsuit would involve a "prolonged legal battle" or that his attorneys did not inform him of that fact.