April 17, 2008, - 1:06 pm

Annoying Lawsuit of the Day: Pro Hockey Player’s McDonald’s-esque Money Grab

By Debbie Schlussel
This absurd lawsuit isn’t new. I’ve written about it before. But this month, it’s coming to trial.
While there are many valid claims and disputes that go to court, there are also far too many that are like this one.
A former Detroit Red Wing hockey player and a team masseur (and their wives) are suing a car dealer who sold a limo to a limo company, whose unlicensed driver then crashed it. They’re suing because they were injured and disabled in the accident. But the lawsuit is preposterous. Vladimir Konstantinov and Sergei Mnatsakanov are saying it was too hard to find their seatbelts, and so they didn’t wear any. Therefore, it’s the car dealer’s fault when they got injured.
You follow? Me, neither. At least, not logically. But in most lawsuits, it’s not about logic or the actual blameworthy party. It’s about following the money and who has the deepest pockets. This is the McDonald’s hot coffee lawsuit all over again, in even less sensical terms:

The men weren’t wearing belts because they were tucked under the seats, the suit said.
Findlay Ford Lincoln Mercury has denied the charges, saying it didn’t design or make the Lincoln Town Car — only sent it to a now-defunct Ford-approved Michigan company to be stretched into a limousine by Ford standards.
The three-week trial before U.S. District Judge George Steeh could include testimony from at least two dozen witnesses, including Wings owner Mike Ilitch, executive Steve Yzerman and the limo driver who walked away from the crash, Richard Gnida, who worked for a Belleville firm.
The vehicle hit a tree on Woodward in Birmingham after Gnida fell asleep at the wheel on the way back from a golf outing. Defenseman Slava Fetisov also was in the limo but wasn’t seriously injured.

The two former Red Wing employees also sued Ford Motor Company.
I feel sorry for the injured men. One was paralyzed from the waist-down and the other has serious head injuries, which require 24-hour care. Their careers with the pro hockey team ended with that fateful accident.
But the accident is the dual fault of the unlicensed negligent limo driver and the limo company, which didn’t do an adequate background check on the driver.
And neither of those parties has any money.
So, what do greedy lawyers do in a case like this? They sue the innocent business that sold the perfectly fine automobile . . . the business that did nothing wrong and had no connection with the accident. Soak the rich.
And you wonder why cars and insurance are so expensive these days. The $10 billion litigation tax from unworthy suits like these are a significant portion of the reason.

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4 Responses

Since I drove a taxi for 18 years I really think of rented limos as fancy taxis. What many drivers do after every shift is remove the back seat looking for a wallet or a quarter. They don’t place the belt on top of the seat when they clip the seat back in. The seatbelt story sounds plausible. The belts were probably under the seat with chewing gum stuck to them. It would make my skin crawl when I would come in in the morning and find they had to send my cab out over night. The first thing is to clean the steering wheel because it felt like kids had been in it overnight eating peanut butter and jelly samiches. Also clip the back seat back in because whoever took it out couldn’t be bothered to even put the seat back. Brutal.

John Cunningham on April 17, 2008 at 2:19 pm

That’s those Red Wings chokers for ya!
I’m a partial season ticket holder to the Nashville Predators and have gone to the playoffs, especially last night where the Dead Wings choked yet again against our bargain basement players.
Deb, you should come to Nashville for a game this Sunday afternoon! I’ll get you a ticket.

Jeff_W on April 17, 2008 at 2:40 pm

I’m surprised they hadn’t named the company that paved the roadway upon which the crash occurred. Or the DOT crew that initially planted the tree.
This country is just way too ligitious.

Carl on April 17, 2008 at 9:12 pm

The limo driver was smoking a joint well driving. It’s a perfectly legitimate suit. Konstantinov was one of the best, until this asshole ruined his entire life.

Daniel Garrity on October 6, 2009 at 3:49 pm

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