Verdict in bizarre Chengdu hit-and-run case sparks legal, moral debates

Chinese internet users question court's handling of bizarre case

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 18 July, 2013, 3:24pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 25 July, 2013, 9:54am

A bizarre traffic accident involving multiple collisions and the death of an elderly man has shocked Chinese netizens.

The accident occurred on October 10, 2011 in Chengdu, when a man over the age of 60 was the victim of three hit-and-run collisions, the Huaxi City Daily reported. Witnesses said the man had been hit by a silver mini van while crossing the road, and two other vehicles drove over his crumpled body afterwards. None of the drivers bothered to stop and check on the victim. It was not until a fourth car crashed into the man’s body that the driver, identified by his last name, Peng, stopped and called police.

“I discovered that I had hit something, and after getting out of my car, I found it was an elderly man,” Peng reportedly told authorities. He explained that he had tried to stop before hitting the man, but braked too late. “I saw the elderly man’s leg move a little, and immediately called police,” added Peng.

The victim was declared dead after the accident. He had no children, and his only living relative was his father, who was nearly 90. Peng paid all the victim's funeral expenses, but the victim's father sued him over the death of his son.

Chengdu courts began deliberating the case in 2012, and delivered its verdict recently, reported the Huaxi City Daily. Even though three other cars had already struck the victim and left the scene, the court chose to hold Peng solely responsible. It  ordered him to pay nearly 400,000 yuan (HK$ 505,000) to the victim’s father.

The court’s decision was based mainly on Peng’s statement that he had seen “the old man’s leg move a little” after hitting him. The court said this revealed that the victim still showed some signs of life at the time of the accident, even though three cars had already struck him. It concluded that the collision with Peng’s vehicle was the “direct cause of death”.

The court said if the other drivers were ever caught, Peng could sue them for compensation.

Commentators on China’s Sina Weibo social network were baffled by the case. Many argued that Peng should not be held totally responsible.

“The drivers ignored the law and got away completely, while this person stayed behind to call police and now he has to pay all the compensation!” one post noted. “This sort of thing could only happen in China.”

“It’s harder to do the right thing these days,” another said. “This kind of judgment will only make more people [in similar situations] choose the escape route. Social attitudes have really strayed from morality.”

Others were not so sympathetic towards Peng, but question the logic of the court's decision.

“[Peng] should not be considered [good],” one netizen wrote. “Calling the police and paying compensation are what you’re supposed to do in such a situation. But making him take full responsibility for the accident is unacceptable…I feel that the way the court determined this verdict was backward.”

“This is an example of sheer laziness by the judicial authorities,” another replied. “This is the perfect example of them trying to quickly conclude a case.”