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Photograph of Golden Spike Ceremony at Promont...

Image by The U.S. National Archives via Flickr

At 2:47 p.m. today, May 10th, the golden spike bearing the words ” May God continue the unity of our Country as this Railroad unites the two great Oceans of the world,” was driven into place at Promontory Summit in Utah, creating the first Transcontinental railroad in the United States. This might not seem like much, but in fact it meant that travel from the Atlantic to the Pacific could be done in about a week, compared to the six months that the journey took beforehand.

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In the world of litigation, anyone can sue anyone for anything. This proposition is of course tempered by the rules for frivolous litigation which penalizes litigants that bring lawsuits which they know have no merit resulting in a waste of court resources. I came across an interesting lawsuit referred to in the Wall Street Journal Law Blog filed by a woman in federal court in Utah against Google for faulty walking directions. The complaint can be found here.

It seems that the woman, looking for walking directions across town, used Google Maps walking directions which placed her on a highway without sidewalks. The woman, who evidently chose to follow the directions verbatim, was struck by a car and injured. She is now suing Google for providing her with dangerous directions.

Frivolous? Ingenious? Her allegations is that by providing directions Google undertook a legal duty to provide safe directions for pedestrians. She alleged that by providing directions which instructed her to walk on a highway with no sidewalk, Google was negligent. It will be interesting to see how this holds up in court compared to the “reasonable person” standard. The plaintiff always has an obligation to act as a reasonable person would act under the circumstances.

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I remember it well from when we lived in New Jersey. A trip on any major highway whether traffic was stopped or not would most likely reveal some driver, totally not paying attention to driving. I have seen drivers putting on makeup while driving (seems dangerous to me), talking on cell phones, texting on phones, even reading the newspaper (I kid you not, the paper splayed out over the steering wheel as they do 70 on the Garden State Parkway). Most states have required hands-free use of phones while driving to try to make it somewhat safer to be on the road with these people. The state of Utah has recently passed a law making it the strictest law in the country for texting while driving. Drivers who are texting and cause a fatal collision can be face felony charges and jail time up to 15 years. The state has likened texting or talking while driving to driving while intoxicated -reasoning that drivers who are distracted by texting or talking while driving are just as unfit to operate a vehicle as drivers who have had too much to drink. Texting have been found to be even more dangerous since the driver is more distracted and engaged than with just talking on the cell phone.

From a legal perspective, the difficulty in enforcing the law lies in the ability of the prosecutors to prove their case. Unlike drunk driving where there are objective testing in the form of a breathalyzer, there are no such instruments available in texting while driving cases. The prosecutors or law enforcement officials are forced to subpoena phone records and logs to demonstrate that the driver was texting immediately prior to the collision. The law in Utah presumes that all drivers are aware of the inherent risk of texting while operating a motor vehicle, akin to the presumption in most states regarding the consumption of alcohol and the operation of a vehicle. With this presumption in place, the evidence in the form of phone records provide the proof necessary for enforcement.

As a mother it scares me that the three children that I spend so much time caring for could be gone or severely injured in a moment. We protect them by making sure that they eat good food, dress appropriately for the weather, wear their seatbelt in the car, look both ways when crossing the road. Yet, there are so many, split seconds, that can turn a world upside down.

My heart goes out to the family of the Vermont skier, Cody Marshall. Cody is presently in a coma in Utah because of one of those split second silly things. One of those silly things that I could see my old boys doing, just goofing around, just being silly. One of those scary, bone-chilling moments that can bring a mother or father to their knees. Cody, 26 years old, from Pittsfield, Vermont is in Utah for training for the United States Ski Team. He was training for the 2010 Winter Olympics. He was out at the mall with some friends and slid down the rail of the escalator – a simple act that any boy might consider. Except this slide cost him, big time. He fell backward off the rail and fell 20 feet. He is now in a coma. A split second. Devastating.

His family has put up a blog to monitor his progress and report it to friends and family worldwide I am sure that his family never expected to be at his bedside in a hospital monitoring him and showering him with prayers to come out of the coma and return to his life. As a mother it is a nightmare come true. My heart and prayers go out to he and his family. Shivers go up my spine to think that split seconds can break a mother’s heart and there is nothing that you can do to protect them from it. Life, that is.

Evilwife on the move

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