Last August, a car driven by actor Morgan Freeman ran off the road in Mississippi. Today, his passenger, Demaris Meyer sued Freeman in federal court for injuries she suffered in the accident.
Ms. Meyer clarified at a press conference this afternoon that she was not Mr. Freeman's mistress, according to the LA Times Dish Rag. The actor was going through divorce from his long-time wife at the time of the accident. Ms. Meyer reportedly met Freeman that evening at a dinner party. Her complaint alleges that he ran off the road while driving her car to his home, where she had accepted an offer to stay (in a separate house on his property) so as to have an easier drive to work the next morning.
In her complaint, Ms. Meyer claims that Freeman was drinking throughout the evening in question. She seeks recovery for injuries including a broken wrist, torn shoulder labrum, pulmonary contusions and cervical strain. She also claims cognitive damage to her short term memory, mental anguish and emotional distress which have prevented her from returning to work.
Outside of scrutiny into who rides in your car late at night, Ms. Meyer's suit against Morgan Freeman reminds us of the liabilities to passengers that auto accidents can bring. In the past, many states had what were known as automobile guest statutes. These laws made it so that non-paying passengers could not recover from a driver after an accident unless the driver showed gross negligence or even wantonness (such as drunk driving, drag racing or intentional crashing).
Now, almost all states which had guest statutes have repealed them, or had them ruled unconstitutional by state courts. This means that simple negligence is enough to make drivers liable to their non-paying passengers. Instead of the extreme behavior required by older guest statutes, most states now require only that the driver failed to exercise ordinary care and that through this negligence caused injury to someone else.