New York Driver Cleared In Crash Caused When Someone Untied Her Bikini Top

Well, this is a defense you don’t see every day:

[A] young woman can’t be held responsible in a fatal crash because she faced a roadway emergency after a back-seat passenger unfastened her bikini top, exposing her assets.

That was the ruling handed down last week by a Brooklyn appeals court, providing the latest twist in the bizarre and tragic case that unfolded after Manhattanite Brittany Lahm, 24, crashed on the Thruway in July 2008.

She took her hands off the wheel to cover up, causing the car to veer off course, hit a guardrail and flip. Berman died, and several others were injured in the Rockland County accident.

Even though Berman had acted disruptive throughout the fateful ride from the Jersey Shore, the Appellate Division concluded “that Brittany did not anticipate that he would suddenly pull the strings on her bikini top, thereby causing the top to fall and her breasts to be exposed.”

Therefore, the appellate judges held in a 3-1 decision that it was reasonable for the Rockland County jury that initially heard the case to conclude that Lahm’s bikini top problem constituted “a sudden and unforeseen emergency not of her own making.”


The appellate decision upheld a Rockland County jury verdict that came after a civil trial brought by Jason Pelletier, one of four passengers in Lahm’s Lexus. All were 19 at the time. They had been headed back to the area around New City.

The odds that alcohol was involved seem pretty high.

FILED UNDER: Law and the Courts, ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Franklin says:

    Thank you for keeping us abreast of the story, Doug.

  2. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    After careful review of the article, and the pictures of the defendant…


  3. JKB says:

    I blame the puritanical society under George Bush where the accidental exposure of a young woman’s breast is so damaging it comes before the safe operation of motor vehicles. This is why women aren’t allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia; someone tugs their burka and everybody dies.

  4. Gold Star for Robot Boy says:

    The dead kid – who also was the one to untie the driver’s bikini – needs the Scumbag Steve hat.

  5. legion says:

    So does this mean the yahoo who untied her top – or his estate, since he died in the wreck – is liable for damages?

  6. Pinky says:

    You don’t need alcohol for car accidents. A distracted teenage driver is enough.

  7. Franklin says:

    This is why you’re not allowed to have open jugs while driving.

  8. @Jenos Idanian #13:

    After careful review of the article, and the pictures of the defendant…


    In fact, after reading the article and seeing the photos of the dude-bro/douchebag, Berman (who caused the accident), I think he should have his entire estate (probably just some anabolic steroids and a baseball hat collection) sold off and given to the victims in the other car.

  9. wr says:

    “Exposed her assets”? The moron who died in the crash isn’t the only scumbag in this article — the writer is trying to prove he’s every bit as sleazy.

  10. Anderson says:

    Legion: that’s my theory. The driver’s loss of control was an entirely foreseeable consequence of his action.

  11. Grewgills says:

    The dissenting appellate judge, Justice Sheri Roman, opined that because Berman’s behavior was disruptive before the bikini top prank — he had opened an umbrella inside the car and stuck his feet in the driver’s face — the situation was a foreseeable hazard, akin to sun glare or an icy road.
    “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.

    It seems to me that if anyone should be sued for damages, it should be the estate of the boy that kept distracting the driver through the entire trip. Then again the college football player that is suing could have easily and should have helped keep the other kid in control, so he is as much responsible for the accident as the driver.

  12. James Joyner says:

    The defense would be reasonable if the unveiling were indeed a surprise. But the fact that she continued to drive with this disruptive yahoo in her vehicle is her fault. She chose to put her passengers and everyone else on the road in danger.

  13. Grewgills says:

    @James Joyner:
    They ALL chose to stay in the car. The other passengers chose to stay in the car and to let the yahoo continue his disruptive behavior. If it were the people in the other car suing you would have a point, but the person suing is one of the passengers of her car that let that yahoo continue with his disruptive behavior.

  14. Rafer Janders says:


    Indeed, the other passengers had far more ability to control this idiot than the driver did. They at least had their hands free and/or were sitting next to him, so they could and should have done more to control him. The driver had the least freedom of movement and attention to deal with a disruptive passenger.

  15. Franklin says:

    Perhaps she shouldn’t have said, “cleave me alone!” Obviously I’ve got nothing more to add here, so ta ta for now.