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Driver Sued For Updating Facebook In Fatal Crash 365

Posted by Soulskill
from the heading-to-the-store-for-kzzrjdzodddkla-oh-crap dept.
An anonymous reader writes "21-year-old Chicago motorist Araceli Beas has been accused of attempting to update her Facebook page on her cell phone when she allegedly struck and killed 70-year-old Raymond Veloz. The victim's daughter, Regina Cabrales, has filed a wrongful death lawsuit in Cook County Circuit Court, asking for an unspecified amount of money. Cabrales alleges in her suit that Beas operated her vehicle without keeping a proper and sufficient focus, drove while using an electronic communication device, and failed to slow down to avoid an accident. As proof, she points to the fact that Beas' Facebook page showed an update posted at 7:54 AM on December 7, 2010, which is the same time that Veloz's cell phone records showed a call being made to 911."
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Driver Sued For Updating Facebook In Fatal Crash

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  • Same time? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Straterra (1045994)
    I assume the phone call was made AFTER the wreck. If she updated at the same time as the 911 call, wouldn't the update also be AFTER the wreck?

    This is, of course, assuming that the person making the call isn't psychic and made the call before the wreck.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I think it's important what was posted. If her status update is "Oops just killed an old guy" then fair enough.

    • I agree, if it was something like OMG I was in a car accident, then really no case. Unless she is just heartless and saying stuff like grr car accident now I'm going to be late for my mani/pedi. ***Or*** maybe she had some server lag and was posting about how angry she was at the pigs because she failed the last level of Angry Birds while driving.
      • by diskofish (1037768) on Friday February 18, 2011 @12:01PM (#35244140)

        Rosario Rodriguez said her daughter, Araceli Beas, posted that she needed to go to the gym as she sat in her car while waiting for it to warm up outside her boyfriend’s home near East 80th Street and South Commercial Avenue last Dec. 27.

        http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/chibrknews-womans-mom-denies-facebook-allegation-20110215,0,4906576.story [chicagotribune.com]

      • I agree, if it was something like OMG I was in a car accident, then really no case.

        No case??? Seriously?? If you hit a man with your car and first thing you think about is "oh, I need to update my facebook status", than .... WTF is wrong with you???

        • No case??? Seriously?? If you hit a man with your car and first thing you think about is "oh, I need to update my facebook status", than .... WTF is wrong with you???

          Actually, yeah there would be no case for wrongful death. If you were posting about the event that occurred, how do you propose that facebook status update caused the accident? You got some new physics?
          If you are making a case against uncouth behavior, sure, but last I checked thats not illegal.

          • by iluvcapra (782887)

            If you are making a case against uncouth behavior, sure, but last I checked thats not illegal.

            "Negligence" is a failure to exercise reasonable care. Hitting someone and then Facebooking about it before calling 911 is pretty plainly negligent and would be a slam dunk with a jury.

        • by morari (1080535)

          WTF is wrong with people that think they need to update their Facebook status at all? Not just after car accidents...

    • The 911 call was made by the victim.
    • by Alioth (221270)

      The sequence could have been this:

      * Facebook updated at 07:54:03
      * Crash occurs at 07:54:06
      * 911 call occurs at 07:54:47

      It's quite possible that the update, collision and 911 called happened within the same minute.

      • Off topic, but the aegidian.org link in your sig seems to be down. http://www.oolite.org/ [oolite.org] appears to be the current webpage (fellow fan of oolite here).
    • Maybe it was like the time Elaine bought Jujubes before going to the hospital after hearing a friend was in an accident?
    • Re:Same time? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by xerio (1001881) on Friday February 18, 2011 @11:37AM (#35243860)
      The 911 call was about a minor accident the victim had BEFORE she hit him. He was calling 911 about the first accident when she struck him.
      • Re:Same time? (Score:4, Informative)

        by ElmoGonzo (627753) on Friday February 18, 2011 @12:24PM (#35244396)
        Assuming the FB update was made from the young woman's portable phone, someone will suponea the cell phone records. I was on a jury in 2002 where cell phone records were introduced as evidence and they had very detailed timestamps on them. That should resolve the issue.
      • by itsdapead (734413) on Friday February 18, 2011 @12:41PM (#35244558)

        He was calling 911 about the first accident when she struck him.

        Classic bit of false inference.

        Assuming the phone times were accurate and in sync (big assumption), someone was calling 911 on the victim's phone at the same time as she hit "submit" on her Facebook upgrade. That this was the victim reporting the first accident is a reasonable surmise, but there's no evidence of this. Nor is it stated anywhere that the victim was on the phone at the time of the second accident.

        The critical bit of missing information is the precise time of the second accident. If you read TFA-within-TFA this is given as "about 8:00".

        So even if the timings are in sync and "about 8:00" was precise, the defendant could reasonably have finished Facebooking 6 minutes before the fatal accident. That sounds like enough time to be parked up, put down your phone, pull out and drive 2 miles. Even easier if "about 8:00" means "8:05" or "8:10".

        Its really not worth delving into the details of when the calls/postings were made unless the time of the accident can be pinpointed with comparable accuracy (unless you plan on baffling a jury with bullshit).

        • Assuming the phone times were accurate and in sync (big assumption)

          Its not that big an assumption. Phone networks have some pretty tight tolerances on time synchronisation in order to work (they tend to use GPS receivers and rubidium clocks all over the place to keep things in sync), so it is reasonable to believe that the time stamps on phone records will be pretty accurate. Of course, the handsets themselves may not be that accurate (although they tend to have clocks set from the network these days anyway), but any subpoenaed call records should be pretty reasonable.

  • Whoooops (Score:5, Insightful)

    by $RANDOMLUSER (804576) on Friday February 18, 2011 @11:15AM (#35243612)
    Since driving and using a cell phone at the same time are illegal in the city of Chicago, having evidence that the driver was doing so at the time of the accident means the defendant has a rough day in court ahead.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    while driving, then it should be legal to take bong hits.

  • by erroneus (253617) on Friday February 18, 2011 @11:20AM (#35243664) Homepage

    Criminal suits ==> "Guilt beyond a reasonable doubt"
    Civil suits ==> "Preponderance of evidence"

    As this is a civil suit (wrongful death is civil), the rules for civil suits apply. Most knee-jerk reactions want to look to "reasonable doubt" and then look into any time disparities among the phone, Facebook and other services and factors involved in the establishment of this evidence. (for example, timezone data could have significant impact on the reported time(s) from the phone company, the 9-1-1 service, Facebook and more.)

    If all of those time issues are in correct synchronization, then the preponderance of evidence rule would probably result in the plaintiff winning the case.

    • by TheSpoom (715771)

      I think most juries would see that as meeting both standards (if the devices were in correct synchronization and they couldn't show that someone else updated the Facebook page).

      • That's because most juries are idiots. I've personally seen my Facebook app sit there and retry over and over for more than a minute to post an update. You could hit submit, put your phone in your pocket, get in the car, drive 2 miles, and the whole time your phone is trying to submit the update. Hope it doesn't succeed at the wrong time!

    • by Kjella (173770)

      At least for SMS the phone company will have a very exact time of when it was sent, I imagine Facebook will too. The only uncertainty is how long the message has been stuck in your outbox. At least for writing SMS messages people have been convicted of manslaughter here in Norway, passing even the standard of "beyond a reasonable doubt".

  • Since you can't use data and voice at the same time.
    • The victim called 911, not the Facebook poster.
    • by jo_ham (604554)

      On two separate phones? One belonging to the victim and the other belonging to the driver? You know, like in this case.

    • by wurble (1430179)
      Or Sprint for that matter, unless it was on a 4G network (supposedly). Both Verizon and Sprint use the same data and voice protocols.
  • Enable 17 minute fuzzy time stamp modulator. I'd also like a random "anywhere but here" comment updater for use as an alibi, since facebook updates are now legal evidence.

    • by garyok (218493)
      Anywhere but here? "Honey, you know how you were saying you were working late on Thursday night? How come facebook says you were haggling for a sniff in the fleshpots of Marrakesh?"
    • by Sockatume (732728)

      You seem to be under the impression that legal admissibility grants a piece of information the totemic power of a logical axiom or a videogame powerup. I'm pretty sure that most evidence you could care to name would trump a facebook update's timestamp or geotag.

  • There are two key things we do not know. Were the devices used to provide the time stamps for the Facebook post and the 911 call set to the same time? How much time passed, if any, between when she posted her update to Facebook and when Facebook timestamped it?
    The girl's mother is claiming that her daughter made the updates when her car was parked in front of her boyfriend's house before she started driving. It is certainly reasonable to believe that there was sufficient differential between the devices p
    • by nedlohs (1335013)

      And that's what we be found out. It's a really simple system.

      First you notice the timestamps and that they may indicate the person was posting to facebook while driving and that may have contributed to the accident.

      Second you file a lawsuit (you may have done that first of course and have noticed that first part in addition to your initial motivation).

      Third you convince the judge at ht epre-trial phase with the data you do have to let you do some discovery and subpoena facebook for more fine grained data an

      • I was commenting to those who were rushing to judgement that she was in the wrong. That is still to be determined and that is what will be determined at trial (at least theoretically).
    • by jo_ham (604554)

      I think it's not even relevant - her defence is "blinding sunlight" so she was already driving without due care and attention if she couldn't see him and stop in time by driving far too fast for the conditions, whether she was using her phone or not.

    • Establishing that to a reasonable standard of certainty is obviously a matter for discovery; but my guess would be "Yes".

      Most cellphones, unless explicitly instructed otherwise, correct their RTCs against the cell network pretty regularly. The cell guys keep a pretty good timebase.

      Facebook, or any reasonably sized internet entity, is almost certainly correcting their RTCs with NTP or better, if only because things like logging and authentication are really, really hairy if you can't trust your timestam
  • by chemicaldave (1776600) on Friday February 18, 2011 @11:47AM (#35244004)
    FTFA

    Veloz had exited his vehicle after getting into a minor accident with another motorist at around 7:30 AM. He was standing near the other driver’s vehicle exchanging information when he was struck by Beas. His right leg was partially severed, and he lost too much blood. Veloz was pronounced dead at around 9:30 AM in a nearby hospital. Beas told police that she had been temporarily blinded by the sun at the time of the collision, which resulted in a ticket for striking a pedestrian in the roadway. The driver involved in the earlier minor collision with Veloz told officers at the time that they had been temporarily blinded by the sun as well. Beas’ mother, Rosario Rodriguez, came to her daughter’s defense claiming that she posted the Facebook update as she sat in her car while waiting for it to warm up outside her boyfriend’s home, which is located two miles away from where the crash occurred.

    So. The woman could very well have been unable to see due to the sun. Was the victim standing in the road? Did they move their vehicles to the side of the road? It's impossible to prove that the driver was using her phone at the time of the accident.

    • by Ogive17 (691899)
      That can be easily proven or disproven by the time stamps of the update and the call. I would guess it would take at least 4 minutes to drive the 2 miles in Chicago (speed limits usually 25 to 35mph inside city limits), and that's without traffic.

      My blackberry logs any facebook updates I make as well as calls... so the timestamp on my phone would be consistant.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      So apparently in Chicago when drivers can't see what is ahead of them, they continue forward at full speed?

      • by adisakp (705706)

        So apparently in Chicago when drivers can't see what is ahead of them, they continue forward at full speed?

        It's possible in Chicago (or anywhere) to be temporarily blinded by the sun while driving with very warning -- for example, by early morning sunrise reflecting off a large shiny building (with mirrored windows) into your car. In a case like this, the sun's reflection can be onto a single small area of the road even when you are not driving in the direction of the sun (such as North/South rather than East West). Also, some of the roads curve and it's possible to get a blinding glare from the sun only at a

    • by Nadaka (224565)

      Driving 2 miles in one minute from a dead stop while blinded by the sun? That means that you have to accelerate fast enough to surpass 120 mph and keep going enough to make up for the time you spent below 120. You might be able to do that in a super car like a Lamborgini or a high end crotch rocket.

      That is either more reckless than driving while facebooking, or something is wrong with that story.

    • She was driving when she could not see, but it is not her fault??

      I'm not sure about Chicago, but in most jurisdictions blind people can't get driver's licenses.
    • by pz (113803)

      In Massachusetts (yes, I know, different state, different laws), if you, as a driver, are unable to view the road and continue to operate your vehicle, you are liable for what happens. If, for example, your windshield is covered in ice and you have a head-on collision, it's your fault. If the sun is in your eyes and you don't slow down to avoid hitting things, your fault if it happens. If you have sunglasses on at night and can't see the pedestrian crossing the road, your fault. If you turn your head to

    • So. The woman could very well have been unable to see due to the sun. Was the victim standing in the road? Did they move their vehicles to the side of the road? It's impossible to prove that the driver was using her phone at the time of the accident.

      Seriously, it doesn't matter. If the power went out in your house and it was pitch black, would you sprint through the house and down the basement steps to get some candles? No, you wouldn't you can't see. You would move as slowly as you could to feel your way
  • If she is found guilty she should simply be banned from driving for 10 years, as she has proven she cannot be trusted with operating a motor vehicle. She's from Chicago, she can take the El like everyone else. Also such a punishment not only fits the crime but is a far better deterrent for such irresponsible actions than jail time (which everyone believes could never happen to them) or financial burdens (which the government usually makes sure you're not made homeless by).

    • Civil court != Criminal court
      Considering the circumstances, she would never be found guilty in a court of law. There's just too much reasonable doubt.
      Was the sun in her eyes like she and another witness said?
      Can they prove she was actually driving when she posted to Facebook?
      Why was the victim in the road and not on the sidewalk?
  • Yet another death caused by fucking idiots who text while driving. Nuff said.
    • by idontgno (624372)

      Well, of course, other than niceties like "due process" and "innocent until proven guilty" and "reasonable doubt".

      I like Slashdot. It reminds me of important facts of life, like "In the court of public opinion, all the jurors are douchebags."

      • by Jawnn (445279)
        Not talking about due process. Everyone is entitled to that, of course, even fucking idiots who text while driving. I'm talking about the likely outcome of of that process and, more importantly, fucking idiots who text while driving.
  • The article is light on details but here is what is published: a Facebook update was made on the defendants account near the time of the accident. It is implied it was made from the defendants account. The plaintiff however must prove that it was made by the defendant herself. In the article, the defendant's mother claims she made the update from another location. Again it is up to the plaintiff to prove it really was the defendant updating the status and not any other explanation.
  • Crap, just killed some old dude. Will be late for party... anyone have a link to a CPR guide? He's still gurgling a bit.

Nothing is impossible for the man who doesn't have to do it himself. -- A.H. Weiler

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