1995 Washington Square sudden acceleration revisited

In 1992, Diana Maychick drove her mother’s Oldsmobile back to Washington Place in Greenwich Village, and got out. Her mother, the 74-year-old Stella Maychick, slid over from the passenger seat to the driver’s seat, readying herself to return to Yonkers. Maycheck, a shorter-than-average woman, suddenly took off in the car, which sped up, ran two stop signs, and tore through Washington Square Park, killing five and maiming several others.

Diana Maychick is now Diana Foote, a restaurant reviewer for a Palm Beach newspaper, and recently recounted the accident, claiming the recent Toyota troubles exonerated her mother.

Which I found fascinating, because I worked on that litigation—and the evidence that Maychick hit the gas instead of the brake was so strong that the plaintiffs’ lawyers abandoned the standard specious “mysterious gremlins caused the car to accelerate” theory and replaced it with a “General Motors knew that drivers were hitting the wrong pedal but didn’t do enough to warn them” theory. I took issue with Foote’s column in a letter to the newspaper.

As for the lawsuit itself, the judge excused everyone in the voir dire who expressed the remotest skepticism about plaintiffs’ theory, and GM settled shortly after the start of trial. One certainly marvels at the chutzpah of the theory of the case, given trial lawyers’ role in trying to persuade the public that driver error couldn’t possibly be to blame.


  • I find Foote’s story a little tough to swallow.

  • Note that the lawyer’s theory appears to be that any possibility of “driver error” is excused by the “lack of warning”. By that theory auto makers should refuse to sell a car to anyone who hasn’t taken and passed a 6 week course on every possible way to miss-use or mistakenly operate that car.

    And why isn’t the state liable is well, they issue a driver’s license after supposedly testing the competence and knowledge of the driver.

    I now take tongue out of cheek.

  • My daughter wanted to lean to drive (That was many years ago,) She was going slowly and had to make a left hand turn. She started to turn the steering weal, just froze up, and drove off the rode into a tree. We were going so slowly that nothing was harmed at all.

    I remember the Washing Square incident. It was horrible, but how can anyone engineer against driver freeze up?

    My brother-in-law’s daughter was permanently disabled (almost as bad as Chrisipher Reeve ) when she was mowed down by a crazy guy. There were no deep pockets for her.


    Here is a lawyer doing God’s work: