A Manhattan woman who crashed her car into a rail and killed her friend after he pulled down her bikini top has been cleared of all liability.
Brittany Lahm, 24, was driving at 65 miles per hour in July 2008 when Brandon Berman, 19 at the time, decided to untie Lahm’s bathing suit top as they returned home from celebrating Berman’s birthday at the Jersey Shore.
Lahm took her hands off the wheel to cover up, losing control of the car and striking a guardrail in the Thruway. The Lexus flipped multiple times in the air, finally falling on its roof in the middle of several driving lanes. Berman, who was in a rear passenger seat, was partially ejected and suffered massive head trauma.
He was pronounced dead at Nyack Hospital while other passengers were injured.
An appellate court upheld a jury’s conclusion 3-1 stating that “Brittany did not anticipate that [Berman] would suddenly pull the string on her bikini top, thereby causing the top to fall and her breasts to be exposed.” The judges described the incident as an “unseen emergency.”
The decision comes from a Rockland County civil trial in which Jason Pelletier, another passenger that day, sued Lahm for damages after his football career at Yale University was cut short due to his injuries.
Pelletier testified in the 2011 trial that Lahm leaned forward for up to 20 seconds to retie her bikini top.
“The plaintiff argues that Defendant Brittany Lahm should have slowed her vehicle down, kept both hands on the wheel, and pulled off of the highway, before attempting to re-tie her bathing suit, and the mere fact that she may have been embarrassed by the exposure of her breasts to the passengers in the car does not excuse her failure to do so,” Pelletier’s lawyers said.
Lahm testified that she took her hands off the steering wheel for only a split second. She was absolved all charges by the jury.
However, the dissenting appellate judge, Justice Sheri Roman said Berman’s behavior was disruptive before pulling down Lahm’s top. Berman had opened an umbrella inside the car and stuck his feet in the driver’s face, the Daily Mail reports.
“That Brandon would ultimately commit an act which would cause Brittany to lose control of the vehicle, under the circumstances of this case, cannot be deemed sudden or unexpected,” Roman wrote.
Lahm now works at World Wrestling Entertainment’s Music Group. Before the accident she was a member of pop music girl band Huckapoo.
Sources: Daily Mail, New York Daily News