$11.75M Settlement in Fatal Bicyclist Crash with Distracted Deputy

The family of a California attorney is receiving an $11.75 million settlement from Los Angeles County, four-and-a-half years after the man was struck and killed by a police cruiser being operated by a sheriff’s deputy who was using his computer while he drove down a street.

The crash on Dec. 8, 2013 occurred when the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputy, Andrew Wood, apparently swerved into a bike lane on Mulholland Highway while typing data into his vehicle’s computer about 1 p.m., according to a May 30 story by The (San Jose) Mercury News.

The 65-year-old victim, Milton Olin Jr., a well-known entertainment industry attorney, was killed when he was struck by Wood’s cruiser as Olin rode his bicycle in the bicycle lane. The deputy, a 16-year veteran of the sheriff’s office, was distracted as he used his car’s computer, which led to the crash.

Olin’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the county, the sheriff’s office and the deputy in the case, the story reported. Deputy Wood was returning from a fire call at Calabasas High School at the time of the collision and was entering details of that call into the computer.

Texting trucker leads to car crash

Photo credit: iStockphoto.com/alexskopje

The family’s lawsuit had sought a jury trial and alleged that Wood “negligently, carelessly, recklessly or in some other actionable manner operated the county vehicle,” according to the story. The family’s attorney told the paper that the lawsuit was filed to prevent such an incident from happening again.

“An internal Sheriff’s Department probe found that Wood had violated department policies and the department imposed unspecified discipline on him,” according to the story. The sheriff’s department has since implemented its first explicit restrictions on in-car computers, including eliminating their use for administrative tasks while driving.

Sadly, had this crash happened in Pennsylvania, the family of the victim of this horrific crash would not have been able to recover the $11.75 million settlement that was available to them in California. Instead, because of local laws in Pennsylvania and in Philadelphia, the family’s settlement would have been much less.

In Philadelphia, a statute known as the Political Subdivision Tort Claims Act caps damages in such cases involving a governmental body at $500,000, while in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the Sovereign Immunity Statute caps such damages at $250,000.

If this horrible incident had happened here instead of in Los Angeles County, that’s all the family could have been awarded in the death of their husband and father.

It’s a travesty in such cases in Pennsylvania that we can’t take care of victims and their families with adequate damage awards that are more reasonable than these arbitrary limits.

This issue has been before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court recently, and I hope it will be back before the court again soon. The new members of the court are more likely to be amendable to helping victims and their families in such cases.

Legal cases like this one occur around the nation every day and are examples of the many kinds of cases that MyPhillyLawyer attorneys regularly work on tirelessly for our own clients.

We here at MyPhillyLawyer stand ready to assist you with your legal case if you or a loved one is ever seriously injured in any kind of vehicle incident anywhere in the United States. We pledge to make sure that you and your family get the compassionate, dogged and experienced legal representation that you deserve and expect from a professional legal team which works hard to uncover every fact to bolster your case and maximize your damage award.

We represent the families of victims who die in such tragedies as well, to ensure that their families receive every penny of damages that they are eligible to receive.

Call MyPhillyLawyer at 215-789-9346 or toll-free at 1-866-920-0352 anytime and our experienced, compassionate, aggressive team of attorneys and support staff will be there for you and your family every step of the way as we manage your case through the legal system.

When Winning Matters Most, Call MyPhillyLawyer.

Listen to Court Radio every Sunday at 7 a.m. with me, attorney Dean Weitzman of MyPhillyLawyer, on Philadelphia’s Old School 100.3 WRNB, Boom 103.9 or on Praise 107.9 WPPZ FM. Listen to Court Radio online or on the radio every week for the latest on legal topics and to get answers to your legal questions. In addition to addressing the topical issues of the day, we’ll answer caller questions on a wide range of legal issues.