$21 million lawsuit for negligent prosecution

In June 2004, 21-year old Vermont resident Samantha Perreault went out drinking with a couple of friends, Norman Poulin and Justin Lawrence. After three rum and cokes each, they left; Lawrence hopped on one motorcycle, and Poulin and Perreault got on another and followed him. Although they may not have been legally drunk, they had had several drinks, it was night, and they were driving 70 mph. Lawrence lost control of his motorcycle and crashed. Poulin, attempting to avoid Lawrence, also lost control and crashed. Perreault, unfortunately, was killed.

Both Poulin and Lawrence were prosecuted for criminal negligence, but Lawrence, apparently, was not also charged with driving without a motorcycle license. Feeling that Lawrence’s punishment was insufficient, Perreault’s father has now filed a $21 million lawsuit. Did he sue Poulin? No; apparently he forgave Poulin. Did he sue Lawrence? Of course not; Lawrence doesn’t have deep pockets. No; he sued the state of Vermont.

The Plainfield resident says officials in the Department of Public Safety and Office of the Attorney General showed disregard for his daughter and for the law by failing to fully prosecute a man involved with her death.

“I don’t want anybody else to go through this,” Perrault said Friday. “I think she deserved more than this.”


“By the state not doing anything, they’re saying it’s okay for you to drive without a license,” Perreault says. “I’ve gone through all the right channels, called the state police, called (the Office of the Attorney General). All I’m getting is blown off.”

In addition to seeking monetary damages, Perreault is also demanding that Lawrence be charged and prosecuted for driving without a license.

Of course, it’s hard not to feel sympathy for someone whose daughter is killed. And the lawsuit isn’t likely to succeed, as the article notes; the state is probably immune, and “failure to prosecute” isn’t a cause of action anyway. But that doesn’t alter the fact that the lawsuit reflects an all-too common mindset that picking a random big number out of a hat and filing a lawsuit against someone with deep pockets is the right approach whenever one is annoyed. (No, the case probably won’t last as long, and cost taxpayers as much, as the Roy Pearson pants lawsuit, but it certainly won’t be free, and will contribute to congestion in the courts which slows down — and thus raises the cost of — legitimate lawsuits.)

One Comment

  • “I don’t want anybody else to go through this.”

    So he is telling us right up front that it’s not about the money. He’s just protecting you and me.