More proof that we are uber-litigious. I'm sorry that the women was brutalized and forced to suffer before being killed, but this type of lawsuit does nothing but keep old-wounds open and hurts society as a whole...
BOSTON, Sept. 8 — In the summer of 1999, AAA got a call about a young woman whose car had broken down in a parking lot on Cape Cod. The auto club told the woman’s stepfather it would send help. Melissa Gosule never made it home that night.
HER BODY was found in a shallow grave eight days later. She had been raped and stabbed to death.
Gosule’s family sued AAA for unspecified damages, claiming that if the auto club had done its job that night, she would be alive today. Jury selection began Monday in state court in the negligence and wrongful-death case.
The case is being watched closely because it is the first time AAA has been sued in the death of a motorist who was killed after seeking assistance from the auto club, legal experts said.
Every year, the American Automobile Association, with a membership of more than 46 million in the United States and Canada, gets about 30 million calls from motorists who need help with dead batteries, flat tires and other roadside problems.
In their lawsuit, Gosule’s parents, Leslie Gosule and Sandra Glaser, and her stepfather, Peter Glaser, claim AAA left Gosule stranded and forced to turn to a stranger for help. That stranger, Michael Gentile, killed her.
“AAA is not who they say they are,” Leslie Gosule said recently in a statement. “Had AAA done what they tell the world they do and what they said they were going to do — provide reliable and reasonable emergency roadside assistance that night — Melissa would still be with us.”
PARENTS CITE AAA MARKETING Gosule’s parents note that AAA, in its marketing materials, touts the peace of mind it provides to motorists in trouble. “One call to AAA and your worries are over,” reads one brochure. AAA also refers to itself as “family” and warns against depending on strangers: “In today’s world, relying on strangers has become a scary (and sometimes dangerous) thing to do.”
The lawsuit names national AAA; its local affiliate, AAA Southern New England; and the tow truck driver.
AAA disputes the family’s claims that it did not offer Gosule help, and says it should not be held responsible for her death. Gentile, a newspaper delivery man with a long criminal record, was convicted of her murder and is now serving a life sentence.
On July 11, 1999, Gosule, a 27-year-old elementary school teacher, had returned at 5:30 p.m. from a bike ride at a park in Bourne to find that her 1986 Pontiac would not start.
It was about that time that she met Gentile, according to testimony during Gentile’s trial in 2000.
Gosule used Gentile’s cell phone to call her mother and stepfather, who told her he would call AAA for help. Gosule was not a member of AAA, but her stepfather was, and it is routine for the auto club to help out relatives of AAA members.
THE HOURS BEFORE GOSULE DIED In their lawsuit, Gosule’s family says her stepfather immediately called the AAA’s 24-hour emergency roadside assistance number and asked that the car and Gosule be taken to a garage in Boston. John Cubellis, a tow truck driver whose company is an agent for AAA, arrived at the parking lot about 90 minutes later.
According to both sides, Cubellis told Gosule he was busy and it would be three to four hours before he could take her or her car to Boston, about 60 miles away. The Gosule family says Cubellis did not try to start the young woman’s car, make sure she was taken to a safe location or call another AAA driver to help.
Gosule then accepted a ride from Gentile.
In court papers, AAA says Cubellis had no reason to believe Gosule was in danger. She was in a busy parking lot at the Sagamore Rotary with restaurants, a gas station and a fire station nearby. When he pulled into the parking lot, he saw Gosule talking and sharing a cell phone with two men — Gentile and a mechanic friend Gentile had called to look at the woman’s car.
AAA says Gosule could have taken a taxi or had a family member come pick her up.
In a statement, a spokesman for AAA Southern New England called Gosule’s death a “terrible tragedy.”
CASE A LONG SHOT? “Our hearts go out to Melissa Gosule’s family and friends,” said Robert Murray. “In our history, we have never seen a case like this. We believe the auto club will be properly and completely exonerated.”
Paul Martinek, editor in chief of Lawyers Weekly USA, a national legal newspaper, said the lawsuit was initially considered a long shot, but some of the claims could resonate with a jury.
“Proving that this was a foreseeable danger is a huge challenge — that AAA could have foreseen that a motorist would have accepted a ride from a total stranger and then be killed by that total stranger,” Martinek said.
“But when you read these things about how AAA holds itself out as a protector of motorists and basically tries to get business by representing itself as a service that motorists need in part because it can be dangerous when your car breaks down, you start to see the lawsuit in a different light.”
This is absurd. If the person AAA sent had not shown up and left a person abandonned on the highway and this had happened then maybe - MAYBE - I could see a basis for the lawsuit. As I understand it, AAA's responsibility is to provide roadside assistance. I've never heard AAA offer any kind of guarantee against a person exercising poor judgment and willingly accepting a ride from a scumbag rapist murderer.
This is a sad, sad story, no doubt. But just because a story is sad doesn't mean that outsiders are financially liable. The killer was not a AAA employee; the victim's choice to go with him was hers to make and was not influenced by AAA. As cruel as this may sound I can't think of a nice way to say it...I hope that family doesn't receive a dime from this lawsuit.
As much as my knee-jerk reaction to any lawsuit is one of revulsion, I'm not particularly opposed to this one. Ms. Gosule signed a contract with AAA; she forked over $100 dollars, and AAA promised to provide a service. AAA failed to provide that service. Imagine paying for a home security service like ADT, and getting robbed anyway. I see this as much the same thing. She paid AAA for protection, and AAA failed to protect her. They may not be directly responsible for her death, but, in my eyes, AAA did breach their contract with Gosule, and deserve whatever comes to them.
"Georgie Porgie, he might buy the whole league, but he doesn't have enough money to buy fear to put in my heart." Pedro Martinez
I guess seeing as I've never used AAA (what being Canadian and all) I'm not familiar with their contract, but unless someone can prove that the driver did not do something specifically outlined in the agreement and that his failure to do this caused her to take a ride from a murderer, then AAA shouldn't be liable for a cent.
If anyone out there has a copy of the AAA agreement that they can compare with the details of the case (yeah, I know, it's online...fuck it, I'm lazy) maybe we can have a better discussion. As it is, this just sounds like a grief stricken family stretching to assign blame and be compensated for their loss.
Originally posted by PalpatineWAs much as my knee-jerk reaction to any lawsuit is one of revulsion, I'm not particularly opposed to this one. Ms. Gosule signed a contract with AAA; she forked over $100 dollars, and AAA promised to provide a service. AAA failed to provide that service. Imagine paying for a home security service like ADT, and getting robbed anyway. I see this as much the same thing. She paid AAA for protection, and AAA failed to protect her. They may not be directly responsible for her death, but, in my eyes, AAA did breach their contract with Gosule, and deserve whatever comes to them.
If it comes down to that (and only that) issue, which I doubt it will, AAA doesn't have a thing to worry about. She wasn't a member, she had no contract with them.
There wasn't anything in this that could've been foreseen. Unless the guy who killed her was some kind of cartoonish twitching psychopath, the tow-truck driver had no reason to suspect he would do anything... especially since they were in a crowded parking lot. She got a ride from the wrong guy, and she died. The only fault is in the lap of the man who stabbed her to death.
Kansas-born and deeply ashamed The last living La Parka Marka
"They that can give up essential liberty to gain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." - Benjamin Franklin
I remember when that happened a few years ago. I lived in Chesapeake and it was palpable when you went outside, both the smell and pallor in the sky. Also, ash layering up on your car on really bad days.