Buffalo, N.Y. - Lawyers for the family of Alix Rice and Dr. James Corasanti squared off in a Buffalo courtroom on Thursday prior to Corasanti's civil trial for Rice's death.
A good portion of the arguments revolved around Corasanti's attorneys trying to prevent certain parts of the lawsuit brought by Rice's family from being considered by a jury at trial.
This on the same day Corasanti was a passenger in a vehicle that was rear-ended by an alleged drunk driver.
One area is whether Corasanti can be sued for punitive damages.
State law sets a fairly high threshold that has to be met here - it must be shown that a defendant acted with "spite or malice....had an evil motive or a deliberate disregard of the interests of others."
Corasanti's attorneys say his actions on the night Alix Rice was killed did not rise to those levels.
Jennifer Schiffmacher, Corasanti Attorney: "There is no evidence or testimony of witnesses that Dr. Corasanti was visibly intoxicated in the hours preceding the accident. In addition there is no evidence that Dr. Corasanti was operating his vehicle in a reckless or erratic manner prior to the accident. In addition despite plaintiffs' claims, there is no evidence that Dr. Corasanti was texting or using his phone at the time of the accident."
But attorneys for the Rice family strongly disagreed.
Lawlor Quinlan, Rice Family Attorney: "You have a drunk driver who was speeding, driving in the bike lane and texting."
The Rice family also says Corasanti's conduct after the accident must be taken into account as well.
Lawlor Quinlan Rice Family Attorney: "He says 'I didn't realize I hit a woman, I thought it might have been a little stone in the road or something that jumped up on my car,' it's preposterous. All of these things on top of each other not only would support a claim for punitive damages, they compel one."
Another point of contention: whether Corasanti can be sued for causing Alix pain and suffering.
Corasanti's attorneys say that Alix's death was instantaneous.
Jennifer Schiffmacher, Corasanti Attorney: "There is simply no evidence of any type of consciousness of the decedent after the accident- no movement, no moaning no crying out, the facts reveal that the decedent was lifeless immediately following the accident."
Lawlor Quinlan, Rice Family Attorney: "We know for a fact that the death was not instantaneous, she still had a pulse found by lay witnesses, found by expert medical people of the Getzville Fire Department that came there, so that's not instantaneous death. It's an issue of fact for the jury (to decide)."
The judge reserved decision on all of the issues before him.