Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Anaheim School Sued by Bicyclist Hit by School Bus

Negligent entrustment can sometimes border on intentional conduct. When conduct is intentional, it is typically not covered by insurance, because it goes against public policy to insure someone so they can go and intentionally beat people up, or engage in some other nefarious conduct and not personally suffer the consequences of their actions.

An example of a case that probably borders on intentional conduct, and is definitely reckless conduct, would be the recent case of the AUHSD ignoring the terrible driving history of a bus driver they hired. The Anaheim Union High School District has had a lawsuit filed against the school in Orange County Superior Court by a bicyclist who was struck by one of their school buses. In the negligence lawsuit filed it is claimed the school district officials ignored the traffic violation history of the bus driver. The suit alleges the school district ignored traffic citations of the driver due to under-staffing and budget limitations. 

The lawsuit was filed against the Anaheim Union High School District by Jose Medina, who was struck by the bus while on his bicycle in the intersection of Crescent Avenue and Valley Street on July 19th. The bus driver has been identified as Paulina Hernandez and the lawsuit claims Hernandez failed to come to a complete stop at the intersection stop sign. Alleging Hernandez did not check for pedestrians or other vehicles.

A nearby apartment complex surveillance camera has been obtained and shows the bus slowly going through the stop sign without the driver coming to a complete stop or checking for pedestrians and other vehicles. In the video Medina is seen curling into a fetal position as the bus ran over his body.

According to attorney Masih Kazerouni in the crash Medina sustained fractures to the spine, jaw, nose and right leg. During the past three years according to court records Hernandez has received a several traffic tickets prior to the current lawsuit, but was not prosecuted. According to reports in at least two of the incidences the police officers involved failed to show up at the scheduled hearings. Her record shows Hernandez has been involved in collisions with two bicyclists while driving a school bus and received three traffic tickets during the three years.





It remains to be seen how budget cuts or under-staffing would lead to hiring a bus driver with a bad record. But clearly, in this case, there is and was a policy and procedure to check the records of potential new employees to drive the buses. After civil discovery, perhaps we will be able update the story. If you hear of, or learn anymore about the case, please contact us. Ehline Law Firm PC (213) 596-9642.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Does the Three Foot Safety Act Make Roadways Safer for Bicycle Riders?

As most of my readers know, I am an avid bicyclist, and try and keep my readers up on the latest news and laws. My friends at the California Bicycle Coalition seem to have hit a home run for a lot us, especially the ones riding around Admiralty Way in Marina del Rey, California. I credit these guys with shedding a spotlite on a real problem for us riders.

Passenger cars in particular, either ignore us, or go out of their way to crowd our cushion of space as we traverse the mean streets of L.A., in particular. The result of bicycle and vehicle collisions is never good with tons of metal colliding with the bike frame and unprotected rider can mean serious harm or fatality. The data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for 2012 shows nationwide there were 49,000 bicyclists injured and 726 riders who died in this type of incident (More.)

Enter the Three Feet Safety Act

The Three Feet Safety Act is legislation that was written by Democratic State Assembly Member Steven Bradford, who stated he has been hit three times by motorists who did not stop after the mishaps (More.) This has happened to me me on numerous occasions in the Venice Beach area, so I get it. For me it was sideswipes, where drivers simply pushed me into the curb, throwing me off my bike. Bradford is hoping the bill will make a difference for bicyclists, since it has a three foot rule, in which if it is not safe to pass a cyclist without having a three foot distance from the rider, then the driver must slow to a reasonable speed until a time when they can pass the rider safely. This kind of reminds me of the school bus stop rule, where drivers must yield to stopped buses.

In any event, most bicyclists appear to be in favor of the new law, while many drivers claim that it is not possible to adhere to the new legislation especially on congested streets. Drivers are also concerned about the ticket they could incur of $35 for drivers who break the established law and a fine of $225 for a driver who hits a bicyclist. Obviously, this could even lead to more serious charges for repeat offenders.

In order to test the bill regulations a local ABC new station used a car with cameras and a yardstick to drive around San Francisco streets finding it was not easy to keep a three food distance while still remaining in the traffic lane (Check it out.) According to this test a vehicle would be required to remain behind the bicycle for blocks, which could lead to traffic congestion. They also found it difficult to determine the distance without measurements.  At the end of the day, we also see stories about bicyclists ignoring traffic regulations altogether. Many drivers fear that this rule will simply embolden bad riders, and lead to more injuries and deaths on the road such as what just happened in New York (Read More.)

San Francisco Police Commander Mikhail Ali stated the law is not written only for the San Francisco area, but for the entire state. He said San Francisco streets are narrow compared at 8 feet, while other roadways in the state average 10 feet. Ali stated bicyclists and cars are too close in general.

California Mandates Three Foot Traffic Rule

The state of California with this legislation is joining twenty-two other states in the distance motorists must keep between their vehicle and bicyclists to ensure safety. Twenty-one states have a three foot law, while Pennsylvania is the only state requiring four feet. Florida between 2006 and 2010 has issued 337 tickets to drivers violating their three foot bicycle rule out of the 14 million registered drivers in the state.

In San Francisco the police department plans to increase the number of police officers on the street who will determine when drivers should be ticked for violation of the law.  Ali said if harm is caused to “another” due to a collision the at-fault party will receive a citation. Though other police officers have commented off the record they will not enforce the three foot law unless there has been a collision.  For cash stricken cities, this will certainly be a money maker.

Executive Director Dave Snyder of the California Bicycle Coalition said awareness of the legislation is even more important than enforcing the regulation. The coalition was instrumental in assisting in the passing of the law, though they agree enforcement of it in San Francisco will be difficult. Bradford said the buffer of three feet is a way to educate drivers to share the road with bicyclists.

Only time will tell if this was the right solution to making the roadways safer for riders. I for one, would rather break the law and ride on a sidewalk, than trust any driver, law or not. But I do applaud the efforts and effect this will have on bringing awareness when it comes to looking out for bicycle riders on the mean streets of California.


   

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Bicyclist Courthouse Protest Fails to Advance Charges Against Cop in Napster Rider's Death

The Los Angeles Courthouse was the destination of bicyclists last Wednesday, calling for the LA County District Attorney to file criminal charges against a police deputy who struck and killed a former Napster executive. As a rider, and as an attorney, I can definitely tell you that I have seen an uptick in close calls and over all accidents not just with cops and riders, but with ordinary passenger cars and cyclists. This just seems to be the new trend.

Honestly, I have personally seen cops talking on cell phones more and more. Of course, they have a carve out in the law that let's them be distracted, apparently because they are some sort of super citizen that was never authorized under the Constitution. Of course officers need to operate equipment and such, as they perform their duties, but the police unions have done much over the years to hold officers to a standard of "master," when in reality, municipal police are supposed to be the "servant."

In a more recent case of distracted driving, the crash involved an Ex-Napster executive Milton Olin Jr. in December, who was riding his bicycle in Calabasas when he was struck and killed by a police deputy. The deadly collision occurred on December 8, 2013 at approximately 1:00 p.m. while Olin was traveling eastbound.

Olin was struck while he was riding in the bike lane, when Deputy Andrew Francis Wood was distracted from driving due to typing on his patrol car computer according to authorities.
Last week prosecutors stated they would not be filing criminal charges against the deputy.


Friend Cristin Zeisler said that the district attorney wrote a memo stating the deputy was not culpable. The district attorney’s office and sheriff’s office declined making any comments in the case.
The bicycle riders met where Olin was struck and killed on Mulholland Highway. They road to the Los Angeles Zoo and then to the Criminal Courts Building in Los Angeles where later a candlelight vigil was held.

Can you imagine an ordinary citizen getting away with that? NEVER happen right? According to prosecutors, deputy Wood was acting lawfully and within his duties when typing a response on the vehicle’s computer. Are you kidding me? Nice carve out for one of your own Mr. District Attorney. As I was suggesting above, they stated there is no evidence the deputy was using a personal cell phone or was engaged in any other personal activity at the time of the collision. You see, police get a carve out to use their personal phones for "official business." Although that is not what happened here, apparently there is a new rule that LEO can run over bikers in the bike lane, and are not "culpable" in driving like morons, if they are engaged in their official duties.  You following me so far?

Olin’s family filed a lawsuit against the county for wrongful death July 16th and are represented by attorney Bruce Broillet, who has not commented on the case. In July when the lawsuit was filed Broillet said the deputy acted negligently. Eric Bruins planning and policy director of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition and one of the organizers of the event stated if law enforcement officials can be distracted without consequences what to this mean for everyone else.

Milton Olin stated that he and his family intend to seek justice. He said the accident should have never occurred.  In a statement made by the family during the vigil, Olin was a chief operating officer for Napster and was 65 years-old. The statement went on to state his loved ones were moved by both the cyclists and the community. So in the case at bar, the survivors can sue for money damages, which I am sure money was not something the family really needed, considering their breadwinner was well off. So the DA probably figures the family has its remedy, and cops now think they have a green light to run people over, so long as they can allege it happened while they was distracted from an "official duty."

This is why precisely consumers need to elect politicians that put people over police unions. In fact, many pro consumer groups are now arguing that people need to make sure that no public servant is above the law, by preventing public employee unions from lobbying. What is your take? Sound off.

Citations:

"Distracted Driving: Law Enforcement’s Achilles’ Heel" - Ashton: http://www.mercurynews.com/ci_22964071/why-cops-are-exempt-from-hands-free-cellphone



"Why Cops Are Exempt": http://www.mercurynews.com/ci_22964071/why-cops-are-exempt-from-hands-free-cellphone