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Friend to pay for failing to stop drunk driver

By Lu Chen (Global Times)

10:50, October 17, 2011

A man has been ordered to pay 36,592 yuan ($5,733) for his failure to insist that his friend not get behind the wheel after a night of drinking, in a rare ruling Sunday described as "unfair" by lawyers in Shanghai.

After an evening out about a year ago, Fang Zhongjia was the last of three friends with Yu Liang, who wanted to drive his motorcycle home after the group collectively drank more than 10 bottles of beer at a restaurant, according to Minhang District People's Court, which announced the ruling Sunday. Fang testified that he warned his friend from getting on his bike after drinking, but never insisted that he find another way home. Intoxicated, Yu later lost control of the vehicle and crashed – his blood-alcohol level was afterwards measured at three times the legal limit for drunk driving.

Local police said that Yu held most of the responsibility in the road accident since he chose to drive without a license after drinking.

But, Yu's family launched a civil lawsuit against his friends, saying that they should pay 30 percent of the some 815,000 yuan ($127,707) spent on funeral fees and other costs associated with their son's death – since they did not persuade him from driving his motorcycle home.

The court ruled that Fang should pay 4 percent of the sum demanded by the family since he was the last one with Yu; the other two friends had left earlier that night.

Legal experts Sunday, however, said that the ruling unjustly favored the family over Fang.

"The person, who was drinking and driving, was fully responsible for his own actions," Gao Ming, a chief lawyer from Shanghai Wan Fang Law Firm, told the Global Times Sunday. "Therefore, his friend should not have to compensate for his death."

Wu Di, a lawyer specializing in criminal law, from Heng Ye Law Firm, also said Sunday that Fang should not have been ordered to pay up.

"It is the job of the traffic police to make sure that drunk drivers are kept off the roads, not of ordinary citizens," he told the Global Times Sunday.

Gao and Wu further agreed that the ruling was more meant to serve the family, and strongly encourage society to better dissuade others from drinking and driving in the future.

A similar ruling was granted in the city three years ago, when three friends who failed to stop their friend from driving home after drinking, were ordered by a Jiading district court to pay for 10 percent of the fees incurred from their friend's death to his family.

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