Driver Blames Mercedes' New Car Smell in Hit and Run

By Tanya Roth, Esq. on December 17, 2010 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Money will not insulate you from the problems of life. However, it will get you a very good defense should one of those problems turn out to be a terrible hit and run accident that leaves a wealthy money manager in jeopardy and a talented doctor in pain for life.

Did Martin Erzinger's money got him into the trouble he now faces and will it help pull him out of it? According to The New York Times, it might have been the new car smell from Erzinger's beautiful new 2010 Mercedes that caused the accident that injured bicyclist Dr. Steven Milo. According to reports, Erzinger was driving on a highway in Colorado last July when he fell asleep or lost consciousness at the wheel, possibly due to the new car smell, possibly due to his sleep apnea, possibly due to a combination of the two.

Erzinger's sharp and no doubt expensive legal team has determined that he suffers from sleep apnea, which can cause daytime drowsiness. Combine this with the new car smell and you have trouble. According to another member of the defense team, an accident reconstructionist, it was determined that "[h]armful and noxious gases emitted from the upholstery can infiltrate the driver's compartment and potentially alter the driver." Or cause him to pass out?

Erzinger's creative and well-staffed legal team will still have to show that the defendant did not know of his condition, or that if he did know, he took steps to ensure he was not a hazard to other drivers or to bicyclists like the one he hit.

For the criminal trial, the defense will also want to play up any evidence that Erzinger's apnea kept him unconscious so that he did not know he was also leaving the scene of an accident where someone was injured. Doing so would make him guilty of a felony.

Martin Erzinger almost had a misdemeanor plead deal in place before lawyers for Dr. Milo objected and the felony charge was reinstated. Keep your eye on this case to see if new car smell becomes the new twinkie defense.

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