In Our Opinion…
Apr 28, 2009 | 4592 views | 0 0 comments | 63 63 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The February death of 16-year-old Middle Village teen Robert Ogle has spawned plenty of attention, new legislation and, now, a controversial lawsuit that raises difficult questions about parental responsibility under the law.

A drunk driver of a stolen car killed Ogle and his friend, Alex Paul, on February 1 as they walked home from a friend’s party. On April 27, Robert’s parents, Brendan and Mei Ogle, filed a lawsuit in Queens Supreme Court against the parents who hosted the under-age drinking party, and the owner of the idling car stolen by the driver who used it to run down the teens.

The death of a child is a tragedy beyond measure, and the Ogles have proved to be brave and courageous survivors in the face of overwhelming media attention over the past few months. However, in this case, the people they are suing are not entirely responsible for the death of Robert Ogle and his friend. The Ogles and their lawyers have not announced how much they are suing for. Assuming it’s a hefty sum, do the parties being sued deserve to be ruined for a stroke of horrible luck?

This is a very complicated, sad case, at the heart of which lies a fundamental question, perhaps eternally unanswerable, of how parents follow the rules, and how they cope with the loss of their children.

The Middle Village couple that hosted the party, Sing-Chau Fung and Yuk Lai Fung, broke the law by allowing underage drinking at their home. Certainly, there have been many instances around the country where parents have been successfully sued under similar circumstances.

Parents are responsible for ensuring, to the best of their ability, the safety of their own children, as well as that of anyone else inside their home. The Fungs should not have allowed or even blindly encouraged the consumption of alcohol by minors at their party. But can their negligence February 1 be blamed for the death of Ogle and Paul, once they left the party and began their fateful walk home? Would the case be different if they were coming home from a bar? What if they were over 21 years old?

Kenny Guyear, who was under the influence of alcohol and drugs when he stole an idling, curbside car and took off on a joyride. (The car’s owner, David Jaber, who is also being sued, had left the car running to dash inside a deli for a quick purchase, a rarely enforced traffic violation in the city). After being apprehended less than an hour later for hitting the teenagers, Guyear showed absolutely no remorse for his deed.

Though the Fungs and Jaber’s actions allowed for Guyear to make the life-altering decisions he did, they cannot be held to blame for the crazed ex-con’s escapade more than Guyear himself.

If convicted, Guyear, who faces DWI and manslaughter charges, will be sent to prison- which, right after this happened, was all that Brendan Ogle asked for. What else can be done? No amount of money can bring back Robert Ogle’s life.

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