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Judge Rules Government Liable In 1983 Accident

March 19, 1988

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas (AP) _ Rangers at Padre Island National Seashore were negligent when they failed to arrest a drunken driver, making the government liable for an accident that maimed a motorcyclist, a judge has ruled.

U.S. District Judge Spencer Williams said after his ruling Thursday that he would hold a hearing later to set damages.

Randy William Crider, 33, of Corpus Christi, was driving his motorcycle in Corpus Christi on July 24, 1983, when he was struck head-on by a car driven by John Lee Landry. Crider lost an arm and a leg.

Landry, now 23, later pleaded guilty to aggravated assault and was sentenced to eight years in prison.

Crider sued the U.S. government for damages, saying that if park Rangers Larry Couser and James F. Copeland had arrested Landry 10 hours earlier when they stopped him for speeding, the accident would not have occurred.

The suit did not name the rangers as defendants, but as employees of the National Park Service.

The rangers and the U.S. attorney defending the case said they did not know whether the ruling would cause rangers to make more arrests.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Wayne Campbell said Friday no decision has been made on whether to appeal, but added, ″I’m not jumping up and down to do it because the judge gave me a very fair trial.″

Campbell said if the government appeals, it would be over the extent of liability of law officers.

Crider said the rangers stopped Landry after clocking his car on radar at 40 mph in a 15 mph zone. Two teen-agers were riding on the hood of Landry’s car.

Couser said he ticketed Landry for possession of marijuana, possession of alcohol by a minor, speeding and having no liability insurance.

According to testimony this week, Landry had consumed seven or eight ounces of liquor and had smoked several marijuana cigarettes in the three or four hours before he was stopped for speeding.

″It is clear to me that this (failing to arrest Landry) was an act of negligence and that, as a consequence, an accident occurred,″ Williams said.

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