We are looking at an accident in another state, this time Rhode Island. A public transit bus struck and killed a 9-year-old girl as she walked to school. There don’t appear to be any new developments in the case since our March 30 post, with the small exception of an op-ed piece (or letter to the editor?) in the Providence Journal that accuses Rhode Island Public Transit Authority buses of regularly running red lights.
Still, there is no mention of police charging the bus driver, 42-year-old Eric Seaberg. Seaberg has a fairly clean driving record, and, as is normal in this kind of situation, he has been placed on administrative leave. But the RIPTA official making the statement didn’t stop there.
The official stated that the driver had not completed “a particular training session.” Never offering information about the training itself, the official managed to add to the confusion by explaining that scheduling training for RIPTA’s 385 drivers is a challenge: The drivers need the training, but the buses have to keep running.
Now, with apologies to Harper Lee and Atticus Finch, every good attorney has to walk around in the opponent’s shoes — at least until he or she has a good understanding of how the other party is thinking about the case. Here, we have the police and the prosecutor considering criminal charges. The question is, though, who is the defendant?
In a civil case, the transit authority might be named as a defendant alongside the driver. The argument could be that the training is essential to the public safety, but RIPTA has not made it a priority. Therefore, the agency has been negligent in its duty to the public. Negligence renders the agency liable for damages.
Criminal liability is not so easy.
Providence Journal, “Police I.D. 9-year-old girl hit by RIPTA bus, release driver’s name,” Tracee M. Herbaugh, March 27, 2015
Black’s Law Dictionary, 10th edition, May 2014 via WestlawNext