Advocate editorial board opinion: Federal lawsuit against truck maker is frivolous

By the Advocate Editorial Board
Nov. 5, 2010 at 6:05 a.m.
Updated Nov. 6, 2010 at 6:06 a.m.

After reading about the federal lawsuit recently filed in Victoria by two widows of immigrants who died in 2003, we determined the suit was frivolous. The widows, who live in New York, are suing the truck manufacturer because there was no device or way that would enable the immigrants to escape the truck's trailer. The widow's husbands were among 19 immigrants who suffocated in the sealed trailer-rig.

First, we doubt that tractor-trailer rigs over the country have safety hatches inside because they are not made for the purpose of hauling immigrants illegally into another country.

Such a suit also would be akin to suing a cigarette lighter manufacturer because the lighters can aid arsonists. The notion is ludicrous.

Victoria attorney John Griffin said his first reaction was the lawsuit seemed frivolous. But he said there might be more to the suit and that he would have to research it to see what the possibilities are.

"According to law, the duty to make things safe is what we call preventing foreseeable harm," he said.

Griffin noted that people used to be kidnapped or trapped in trunks of cars. And probably because of the frequency of the occurrences, we now see releases or ways to get out of a trunk if one happens to be trapped in a trunk.

But we would contend that the manufacturer of a truck that is used to transport immigrants illegally to another country is not normally what we would see as foreseeable. Griffin agreed.

Griffin said attorneys use the American Association For Justice to do research on such cases. But the American Trucking Association also uses its own resources to find out the same frequency of such occurrences.

To our knowledge, this sort of situation - immigrants dying in a tractor-trailer - has little or no frequency. We think this was not foreseeable.

With all due respect to the widows, we think the suit is frivolous and unfounded.

This editorial reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate's editorial board.



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