NEW YORK — An appeals court has cleared a driver in a fatal crash after agreeing she faced an “unforeseen emergency” when a back-seat passenger untied her bikini top.
Brittany Lahm of Manhattan briefly took her hands off the wheel when her bikini top came off while she was driving on the New York Thruway in July 2008, the Daily News reported.
Lahm and a group of friends were returning to Rockland County after a day at the New Jersey shore when Brandon Berman allegedly pulled the bikini strings. He was killed when the vehicle hit a guardrail and flipped.
In a 3-1 decision, the Brooklyn Appellate Division last week upheld a Rockland jury verdict, which found Lahm’s bikini top problem constituted “a sudden and unforeseen emergency not of her own making.”
The verdict came after a 2011 civil trial brought by Jason Pelletier, one of four passengers in Lahm’s car.
Pelletier, who was injured in the crash, sued Lahm for damages. He testified that she leaned forward for about 20 seconds as she attempted to retie her bathing suit top. His lawyers argued that she should have pulled over before trying to adjust her top.
Lahm testified that she took her hands off the wheel for only a second.
All the occupants of the car were 19 at the time.
In his appeal, Pelletier argued that the judge should not have instructed the jury on an emergency doctrine that says a motorist facing an unexpected circumstance may not be negligent.
Lahm declined to comment. The News reported that her lawyer also declined comment, noting that the ruling could be appealed to the state’s highest court.
Information from: Daily News, http://www.nydailynews.com