Grieving widow of accident victim says there was ‘no justice’

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The justice system has been accused of failing another family in Antigua and Barbuda, in a case of causing death by dangerous driving, where the offender was fined $18,000 after pleading guilty, and no consideration was given to compensate the family of the victim, Rolando Labrada Blanco.

That is the view and lamentation of the dead man’s widow, Jacqueline Labrada, who said the court failed the family by not conducting a victim impact assessment and not ordering compensation considering all the circumstances.

“I realised that the court system we have seems to be lacking in adequately addressing the issue of causing death by dangerous driving, because though we have a fatal accident act, it has a statute of limitation of one year or less for the family to file a claim for any damages, even the funeral expenses, the loss of my husband’s income.

“And at the time of his death, we had a 13-year-old son who had to be seeing a psychologist. Between a psychologist and religion he was able to cope with the loss of his father,” she cried bitterly.

In July 2015 Labrada Blanco was riding his bicycle on Factory Road near Antigua Printing and Publishing Company when Charlesworth Samuel Jr knocked him down while speeding on a motorcycle, riding dangerously without licence and insurance.

A year later, Samuel Jr was charged with causing death by dangerous driving. The dead man’s widow said not only was the fine a slap in the face, but it was also an insult that the motorcyclist was not charged and tried for driving without a licence and insurance.

She said some people have asked why she did not file a wrongful death lawsuit soon after the accident and within the one-year period before the limitation period expired. To that she answers that she had no basis upon which to do so – until now, but it is already too late.

Labrada explained, “How can a family put forward a case when the person has not confessed to causing the death or is convicted of causing the death? What am I going to the court for? You killed my husband because I believe you did? That doesn’t make sense; I have no cause of action. How could I possibly prove it? We can’t put the cart before the horse. The police have to get the conviction first and they should do it in a timely basis so that the family can get some recourse for the death of their loved one if we want to go that route.”

But, in this instance, it took the police and prosecution four years to get a trial date and the accused pleaded guilty long after the statute of limitation would have already run out for a lawsuit.

“I don’t even think they are concerned about what happens to the families of these people who were killed in such a vicious way. The judge can order compensation. It is within his discretion. It is very hurtful and painful, and it is time for our government to address the law and make it commensurate with civilised society,” she suggested.

According to the still-grieving widow, her Cuban-born husband was a master at tiling who had become a citizen of Antigua where he practised his profession for many years, and was also a kind and giving person.

OBSERVER media was told that the man’s death has been very painful for the wife, the couple’s children and grandchildren. At the time of his death on July 20, 2015, Labrada Blanco was 49 years old and still contributing significantly to his family’s daily life.

“He [Samuel Jr.] has damaged this family and now to add insult to injury because of this inadequate fatal accident law, there is a statute of limitation … so there is absolutely no resource for the family … it is very hurtful and painful to the family. How can you move on knowing that your loved one, your husband, your father, your grandfather is dead and there is nothing for it? There is nothing! To them, he is like a dog on the street and his death goes for nothing,” she said as she broke down in tears again.

The widow said she was shocked when she learned of the guilty plea from reading an article on social media, and she added that the police called her the next day to inform her of that development. An officer then told her that if she wished, she could sue Samuel Jr now that the case is over.

“I was expecting to be part of the case. I had to go down and identify my husband’s body on the street. My husband died from the blow to his chest from that motorbike; he died from cardiac tamponade. I had to close my husband’s eyes. I saw his tibia on the ground. I saw his bloody body and on the 10th of August I had to attend his autopsy. Oh Jesus Christ, this is such an injustice! My husband died on the road, on the concrete, from that accident. There is no justice,” she continued, totally shaken up and crying uncontrollably.

Last week, Samuel Jr was fined $18,000 of which he had to pay $8,000 immediately and the balance by October 30. He is also disqualified from driving for another 24 months. Failure to obey the orders of High Court Justice Stanley John would result in Samuel Jr being sent to prison for three years with hard labour.

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1 COMMENT

  1. Deuteronomy 27:19 ‘Cursed is he who distorts the justice due an alien, orphan, and widow.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’

  2. Deuteronomy 27:19 ‘Cursed is he who distorts the justice due an alien, orphan, and widow.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’

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