The winter holidays are usually a time of love, peace, and joy for everyone. But for one family in the obscure town of Cityville, Christmas 1979 was loveless, peaceless, and joyless, because grandma got run over by a reindeer. But in this post, we’ll focus on this song’s much less well-known sequel, Grandpa’s Gonna Sue the Pants Off of Santa.
First, a brief recap. Before grandma got run over by a reindeer walking home from our house Christmas Eve, she’d had too much eggnog and skipped her medication. So, as she staggered out into the snow, she was the victim of a hit-and-run accident. Circumstantial evidence at the scene, including hoof prints and Claus marks (whatever those are) pointed to Satna Claus.
Additional conspiracy theories abound. Once claims Grandpa engineered his wife’s death. Indeed, he didn’t seem too upset. He even drank root beer and played cards with Cousin Mel. Another theory implicates the family, possibly because they grew weary of the caregiver role.
But to a Marietta criminal defense attorney, conspiracy theories don’t matter. The only thing that does matter is what the state can prove. The State vs. Santa Claus was certainly the trial of the century in Cityville. But to your family, any trial that involves a friend or loved one is the trial of the century. That’s the approach we use as well.
Civil and Criminal Court
The song is unclear as to where the trial takes place. Initially, a bereaved Grandpa “heard some advertising lawyers swear/They’d win a multimillion-dollar settlement/And make his loss much easier to bear.” He then decides to “sue the pants off Santa” because “Grandma would have wanted him to” and “He knows the law is on his side.”
Incidentally, theses are valid reasons to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Money doesn’t change what happened, but it does help survivors move on with their lives, which is definitely what the decedent would have wanted. So, if the law is on your side, according to a Marietta personal injury lawyer’s evaluation, a wrongful death action is usually a good idea.
The only problem area in this part of the song is the lawyer’s promise of a multimillion-dollar settlement. A lawyer can predict an outcome, but never guarantee one, in civil or criminal court.
Then, the song shifts to criminal court. The judge arraigns Santa, prosecutors are involved, and Santa is faced with losing his “flying license.” All these things are elements of a criminal prosecution. In criminal court, Grandpa is a witness. If the state convicts Santa, Grandpa probably isn’t entitled to anything. Instead, a Marietta personal injury lawyer must pursue a civil action.
The criminal/civil confusion is understandable. Hit-and-run cases have criminal and civil implications. Furthermore, we doubt that Dr. Elmo, who penned this song, is a real doctor.
Hit-and-run has civil and criminal consequences, but the elements are different. The state must prove Santa left the scene of an accident, regardless of who caused it. A Marietta personal injury lawyer must prove Santa negligently caused the wreck.
Prosecutors must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt to convict Santa of hit-and-run. Because Grandma died, Santa would face felony charges.
The circumstantial evidence against Santa (the hoofprints and Claus marks) seems compelling. But a Marietta criminal defense lawyer can challenge this evidence.
Everyone knows that Santa comes on Christmas Eve. But investigators didn’t find Grandma’s body until Christmas Day, and according to the song, it snowed that night. The time delay and environmental conditions degraded the evidence. Furthermore, aside from DNA and fingerprint proof, scientific evidence is more science fiction than science fact.
Additionally, reasonable alternative theories come into play. Even if a Marietta criminal defense lawyer undermines the evidence, Grandma still died in a crash. An attorney must offer an alternative theory. Surveillance camera footage that shows moderate traffic in the area could be invaluable.
To obtain compensation, a Marietta personal injury lawyer must prove, by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not) that Santa negligently caused the wreck.
A minimal amount of circumstantial evidence proves Santa caused the wreck. The burden pf proof is very low in civil court.
Negligence is another matter. Various negligence defenses, including comparative fault, are available in these cases. Grandma’s alcohol consumption and failure to take her medication could reduce or eliminate the family’s compensation.
Alcohol impairs judgment and motor skills. People who walk or drive while impaired or intoxicated are often legally responsible for their own injuries. The same can be said for people who fail to take prescribed medication. A pre-existing medical condition is involuntary and therefore inadmissible in court. But a failure to care for one’s own health is voluntary and admissible.
Georgia is a modified comparative fault state with a 50 percent threshold. Therefore, the victim must be no more than 50 percent responsible for the injury to obtain compensation.
In a wrongful death case, compensation usually includes money for pecuniary losses, such as the decedent’s final expenses, pain and suffering, and the family’s lost future emotional and financial support.
Is It Worth It to Hire a Lawyer?
This song has a very bad ending for everyone except the lawyers. “Now Grandpa gets a TV for his suffering/And Santa is declaring bankruptcy/But listen closely and you’ll hear the lawyers/Singing ‘Jingle Bells’ as they collect their fee.” This description is lighthearted but mostly accurate.
Personal injury lawyers generally work on a contingent fee basis. Instead of money upfront, they take a cut of a settlement or verdict. Additionally, doctors, expert witnesses, and so on also get part of the funds.
As a result, wrongful death survivors usually get more than a TV set, but they don’t get 100 percent of the money. In fact, in large class-action cases, the average victim receives about 5 percent of the settlement money. Admittedly, that’s not a lot. But the percentage is much higher in an individual lawsuit. Furthermore, 5 or 15 or 50 percent of something is infinitely more money than 100 percent of nothing.
Tortfeasors (negligent parties) face severe consequences as well. But they had a chance to do the right thing. Lawyers only get involved when people refuse to take responsibility for the mistakes they make.
No matter how you celebrate them, we wish you happy holidays. For a free consultation with an experienced Marietta family law attorney, contact The Phillips Law Firm, LLC. We routinely handle matters in Cobb County and nearby jurisdictions.