The Richmond Register

April 28, 2013

The case of the tight squeeze

You be the judge

By Jack Strauss
Register Columnist

RICHMOND — Mickey was a race track competitor who didn’t care whether he took the high road or the low road just so long as he ended up the winner.

On one occasion, however, he nearly ended up dead along with two other drivers.

Determined to take the lead in a race, Mickey began weaving in and out of the speeding cars like a darning needle and, throwing caution to the wind, he attempted to squeeze between the two other leading drivers. Unfortunately, there wasn’t nearly enough room for him to get through and the three cars collided and ended up in a burning heap in the middle of the track.

When the smoke cleared, the two other drivers had Mickey charged with criminal assault and battery.

“They’re just a pair of poor sports,” Mickey defended himself in court. “I committed no crime. A pile up on a race track is as common as mustard on a hot dog. It’s an accepted risk of the sport.”

“Baloney!” responded the other two drivers. “If a driver wants to gamble with his own life, that’s his business, but he’s got no right to ignore the safety of others while doing it. In this case, Mickey couldn’t have squeezed past us if he was wearing a girdle.”

IF YOU WERE THE JUDGE, would you convict hot-rod Mickey of assault and battery?

This is how the judge ruled: YES! The judge held that where a person’s wanton and reckless conduct results in injury to another, he is guilty of assault and battery ... even on a race track.

(Based upon a 1949 Mass. Supreme Judicial Court Decision.)

Jack Strauss, a retired New York City trial attorney who now resides in Berea, wrote a syndicated column for 36 years called, “What’s the Law?” It appeared in papers coast to coast, including the Pittsburgh Press, the Los Angeles Examiner, the Hartford Times, the Kansas City Star and the Philadelphia Daily News, among many others. It appears here with his permission.