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George Fusner
George Fusner
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NY Wrong Way DUI – Who Should We Believe?

9 comments

The story of Diane Schuler’s death continues to unfold. After a toxicology report stated Ms. Schuler was under the influence of marijuana and had blood alcohol level of 0.19 at the time of the crash, her husband Daniel claimed the report must be inaccurate. He went on to even say he’s never seen her drunk during their marriage. I hope for his sake he is telling the truth about his wife’s alcoholism, but it seems like reports are starting to surface which say otherwise.

Mr. Schuler has had issues with drinking in the past. In 1995, Mr. Schuler was arrested for DWI. While this was 15 years ago, it certainly hurts his credibility. The five year old survivor may be the only one who will be able to tell investigators what was really going on, but even then, the story will be incomplete. Suffolk County Child Services is now investigating Mr. Schuler, to see if he had any role in the events leading up to the crash. Mr. Schuler’s own independent investigator stated that the vodka bottle found near the crash may have been packed by Mr. Schuler earlier that day. If she doesn’t drink, why was a bottle of vodka packed?

It’s truly a tragic story. While some believe placing blame in this story is inappropriate considering the insurmountable loss experienced by both everyone involved, it doesn’t change the fact that seven people died because of Mrs. Schuler’s actions.

The question that must be asked as the investigation continues: will the victims’ families be rightfully compensated? The answer is not quite clear yet. One way is to investigate the signage in the area. It’s been reported that there were one way and “do not enter” signs at the intersection to warn motorists it was the wrong way, but nothing on the ramp once entered. Even so, it may be difficult to prove that this was a cause-in-fact of the crash, considering Ms. Schuler’s state of mind. You can be sure that every stone will be turned.

Then there’s the Schuler’s insurance policy, as well as the policies of the other drivers. Without knowing specifics, it’s difficult to tell what the victims will receive from the policies, but it will surely be grossly inadequate.

The dram shop act in NY may apply if new facts are revealed, but at this time it doesn’t seem likely it will be brought up (I talk about TN’s dram shop act in an earlier post here). Most likely, the civil litigation is going to revolve around the investigations ongoing: What role did Mr. Schuler really have in his wife’s addiction?

It’s too early to assume Mr. Schuler’s contribution to the accident in this story, but as more information is received, I will discuss the effect it will have on the upcoming litigation. Right now this story is the perfect example of why you engage an attorney as soon as possible after a wreck.

9 Comments

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  1. Facebook User says:
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    I’ve heard people say the Bastardi’s must be doing this for the money, and I don’t think that has to necessarily be true. In a terrible situation like this, litigation is one of the few ways that will provide the Bastardis access to information. Even as nothing more than a horrified reader living in Alaska – I find myself looking for new information about this story each day. What could have possibly led a mother to endanger the lives of 5 children in such a reckless manner? Frankly mental illness and downright demonic possession are the only 2 things that make any sense to me. As a mother of 2 small children I know that the instinct to protect your children comes before any other thing – and Diane Schuler had so many opportunities to do the right thing, even during what turned into a homicidal journey.

    I haven’t been drunk a lot in my life, but remembering back to those college days I’m sure of 1 thing: you do know when you are beginning to catch a buzz. And if you’re catching a buzz with 5 kids in your car, I cannot come up with any way to understand why the woman wouldn’t have pulled over, and stayed pulled over until she felt better. So the Bastardi’s have every right to pursue the truth in this bizarre case – which I think will mean a lot more to them than any financial compensation they might be able to receive.

  2. Chris87654 says:
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    Counselor Barbara and others are concentrating too much on the alcohol issue, when they should still be trying to figure out why she showed no sign of intoxication on the Taconic.

    From July 28/29 articles (several days before alcohol/THC info):
    ” “We’ve spoken to at least 12 witnesses, including a few who were getting off the parkway and had to swerve onto the shoulder of the exit ramp to avoid her,” state police Investigator Joseph Becerra said today. “They’ve all been consistent in saying that she stayed within the lane and did not react when they flashed their lights and honked their horns, trying to warn her that she was headed the wrong way.”

    “Witnesses who were on the parkway also tried to warn her and said that she didn’t swerve at all, but stayed within the lane,” Becerra said, adding that HAD THE CAR BEEN WEAVING IN AND OUT OF THE LANE, IT COULD HAVE BEEN A SIGN THAT SCHULER HAD BEEN DRINKING OR USING DRUGS. [i.e. alky or not, the woman had tolerance and was in control of the vehicle]

    “We’ve had a lot of people come forward, and they’ve been very consistent in their statements,” he said. “Everyone said that she stayed in her lane as if everything was normal.”

    He said there was no indication that Schuler was trying to turn around in the median. ”

    The ramp and parkway had curves – she was not weaving, which indicates she could see the lines defining her lane, which means she could see cars coming from the opposite direction flashing lights. Probably the only reason she finally crashed is the Bastardis couldn’t see her coming over the hill at 117 – other drivers were able to avoid her because they could see her from a distance. This is not the typical drunk driving accident caused by a weaving drunk – the person had tolerance to the effects of alcohol/drugs.

    If a typical drunk could see/control the car (as Diana obviously could), they’d smile and wave, stop and immediately turn around on the PV Road ramp when cars were flashing lights – they’d try to act like a dummy who made an honest mistake to avoid appearing drunk and getting a DWI. I know this because I’m a former drunk driver.

    Consider this from The Intentional Traffic Crash:
    ” The intentional traffic accident is probably the most common means of suicide that is typically misclassified. Unless the person has left a suicide note, it is not obvious from the physical evidence that the crash is anything other than an accident. This is especially true because it is not uncommon for such drivers to be drunk at the time of these “accidents”… Head-on car-truck accidents should also be analyzed as possible suicides when it appears that the lone [not in this case] driver was in the wrong lane and should have seen the truck coming. ”

    Conclusions are limited, and I don’t think she’d be playing “chicken” with children in the car.

  3. Chris87654 says:
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    Correction: Statement should read “this is not a typical drunk driving crash” – there is no such thing as a drunk driving “accident”.

  4. Also an attorney says:
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    Thank you for a blog that focuses on something other than the pain, anger, etc. From a legal perspective, the facts in this case do not add up.
    The easy thing to believe is that this unknown woman was an alcoholic who lost control of herself with horrific consequences. That is what everyone seems to be grabbing onto.
    However, what if she wasn’t an alcoholic? If she was not a habitual drinker there can be only two conclusions.
    1. She intentionally ingested a lot of alcohol and some pot while driving, which indicates impulse control issues and suicidal behavior, both of which would have manifested some prior identifiable pattern.
    2. She unintentionally ingested a lot of alcohol and some pot while driving, which means that she didn’t taste it in her energy drink, fruit juice, or whatever she thought she was drinking. It also means that the pot was in a food she (and maybe the kids) ingested.
    She had diabetes. People with diabetes are not supposed to drink. People with diabetes learn to ingest certain reliable things when they start to feel “off”. If these reliable substances (food and drink) are tainted, those very things she turned to in order to regain her balance would have actually made her worse.
    I know that it is a long shot, and my head tells me that she was likely just another stupid selfish drunk driver in a world where kids die too young. But there is a part of me that just cannot reconcile that she doesn’t fit the profile of even the highly functional alcoholic. These alcoholics do not call their family and report that the cannot see and feel disoriented. Something is not right here.

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    You are so right. It doesn’t add up. Another comment I had corrected me to say that a drunk driving accident is not an “accident.” How true. It is so often the “choices” we make that determine the outcome. Thats why we teach our children about choices, and which ones are the bad ones. Unfortunately the children in this wreck did not have the choice to get out. Thanks for commenting.

  6. me again says:
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    http://forecast.diabetes.org/magazine/forecast/when-you-go-too-low

    She probably thought she was experiencing low blood sugar when she felt the effects of the alcohol. The more research I do, the more I think someone put it in her orange juice.

  7. Jane Akre says:
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    I truly hope the medical examiner’s office did not mix up her results with someone elses. They need to be squeaky clean in attributing the test results to this driver, because none of this makes sense. I recall the diabetes was gestational only.

    I believe that is the first place to start, and hopefully has already been done. ME offices CAN make mistakes.

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    Jane interesting thought. I was reading at lunch an article about hospital safety from the nurses perspective. 38% say there is a lack of coordinated care by hospital staff. 28% say hospitals are NOT clean. The ME office is no different. What were the odds for a mix up? I wonder if the police have a good chain of custody record?

  9. Facebook User says:
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    The State Of New York Troopers are in charge of Investgeting for the Police and the crime lab for that Trop is next door to the ME Office and Westchester County ME Office is one of the best in the Southern Part Of New York This is my only my opinion. I used to belong to an Fire Dept in that aera.