Tag Archive for legal cases

Morning Links: South Figueroa Complete Street project opens next week, and updates on OC court cases

The long awaited My Figueroa Complete Streets project will finally open a week from tomorrow.

City officials will open the long-delayed makeover of the iconic South Figueroa corridor with an official ribbon cutting, as well as walking and biking tours.

Although not everyone is happy with the unprotected, cab-blocked bike lanes by Staples Center, the pedestrian beg buttons required to cross the street, and the interminable bicycle red lights that give drivers clear priority over people on bikes on a street that’s supposed to serve everyone.

LADOT has promised they’re still fine-tuning the street, but I’m hearing complaints that too many compromises were made to get everyone to sign off on the My Figueroa project.

Let’s hope they get it fixed before Angeleno bike riders write off the remade Figueroa as just another incomplete, auto-centric LA street.

Meanwhile, nothing has been done at all on North Figueroa, which remains just as deadly as ever.

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It’s been awhile since we’ve heard from our anonymous OC correspondent, who checks in today with a number of updates on outstanding court cases.

Along with a little justified criticism of yours truly.

Hi, here’s a few overdue updates on OC cases, along with some typical ranting.

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(Alleged) murderer Justin Scott German was released from custody on August 10th on $1mil bond. His preliminary hearing is tentatively scheduled for September 17th. No surprise that this bartender was on probation for DUI at the time of the killing.

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Baby-faced rager Pratiti Mehta is facing a slew of charges: unsafe right turn, unsafe lane change, unsafe operation of a motor vehicle causing injury, hit and run causing injury, and oh yeah, ASSAULT WITH A DEADLY WEAPON with an enhancement for great bodily injury. And since her fleeing ass provided false information to the investigating officers, there’s another charge.

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The Rita Faye McLaughlin case drags on and on and on. Last fall, I skipped a “pretrial” hearing. Turns out, it wasn’t yet another pretrial. It was the victim impact hearing. The victim’s siblings and daughter were there, and Rita Faye was supposed to plead. But she changed her mind. The jury trial was scheduled to begin on the 16th, but has been delayed again.

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Jason Roy Rocha‘s case is also dragging. There will be no good outcome; he needs extensive mental health maintenance and he needs to be permanently banned from operating a motor vehicle, but neither of these things will happen.

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Taylor Russell Evans pleaded guilty in June and is currently serving 364 days in County. His prelim on June 11th was canceled because he accepted a plea bargain, and sentencing was the following week (I skipped both because I had that gimongous facial hematoma)*. He’ll probably be out by Thanksgiving, and his victim will probably still be dead.

*(Editor’s note: Our correspondent was hit by a driver while riding, suffering what the police consider minor injuries.)

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Not bike collisions, but Bani Duarte, who was interrupted by officers as she was packing her suitcase to flee the country, will be allowed out if she raises $4mil bail.

And imagine if Garrett James McKinnon injured 12 people in two separate firearms incidents, instead of using a car.

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Can you stop lauding the OCDA sooo highly? I remind you that killer Becki Lee James was acquitted after she ran down a cyclist, from behind, in broad daylight, inside a 23′ lane, even though her victim was riding in the door zone. The deputy DA at the trial sprawled out in his seat like Dwight the Surly Teen and was clearly irritated to be in the courtroom. The DA absolutely failed to provide the level of prosecution the case deserved, and James is still out there driving around.

Young Dylan Rand-Luby served his 90 days in the cushy pay-to-stay section of Santa Ana’s jail, and is going on about his life.

I was sooo hopeful that the OCDA’s Vehicular Homicide Team would be be brave enough to set some precedent and prosecute on murder/DUI-marijuana charges, but they’ve decided not to go for murder, and so far there are no charges at all.

There’s more, but we’ll save it for another day.

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BikinginLA sponsor Josh Cohen offers a good explanation of California’s comparative liability law, which could cut the amount you receive in any settlement if a jury finds you’re partly at fault in a crash.

On the other hand, it could also allow you to receive something, even if you’re the one who screwed up.

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Local

The Los Angeles Public Library has a bouncing baby bakfiets book bike, which was donated to the Baldwin Hills branch by the LACBC.

LADOT and CD3 Councilmember Bob Blumenfield are hosting a public workshop to discuss street improvements for Winnetka Ave between Vanowen St and Victory Blvd next Wednesday.

Bloomberg says forget vaporware tech promises, and just build a decent sidewalk that would allow fans to walk to Dodger Stadium.

A bill just signed by Governor Brown will allow the County of Los Angeles to develop a program to get employers to encourage their workers to use alternative forms of transportation, including bicycling.

 

State

No surprise here, as the San Francisco driver who allegedly admitted he was drunk after running down and killing a bike rider has pled not guilty, with his attorney calling it just a “tragic accident.” He faces a murder count due to two previous DUI convictions, which led to a warning under state law that he could be charged with murder if he killed someone while under the influence.

San Francisco bike advocates want to end the city’s cap on bikeshare ebikes.

Police in Elk Grove turned to Facebook to find the owner of a Colnago Extreme C racing bike after busting a burglar. Seriously, register your bikes, already. It doesn’t cost anything, and will give police a much easier way to find you if something like this happens.

 

National

The national Vision Zero Network says it will focus on managing and reducing speeds, while defending the program against cities that treat it like a tag line or a PR campaign. Like Los Angeles, for instance.

Bicycling says bicycling — lower case — is the best way to banish the blues. Unless, of course, you’re sad because you can’t ride for some reason, in which case you’re screwed.

A writer for Bicycling says keep your feet out of our bike lanes.

DIY advice on how to wall mount your bike.

Portland’s Community Cycling Center is looking for a new Director of Equity, Engagement and People.

A Utah man suffered cuts and bruises, and broken glasses, when he was assaulted by a bike rider who objected to the man’s dogs being off-leash on a shared use trail. Seriously, just… don’t. No matter how justified you may think your anger is, violence is never the answer.

No bias here. A Colorado music professor is being blamed for a fatal suicide swerve into the side of a passing tanker truck. A more likely explanation is the truck driver passed too close at too high a speed, in violation of the state’s three-foot passing law, and the victim got sucked into the truck’s slipstream.

The subway apocalypse predicted for New York when the L-train shuts down for 15 months of maintenance next year could be a boon for buses and bicycling in the city.

A group of DC Eagle Scouts just earned their bicycling across the US merit badge.

This is how Vision Zero is supposed to work. DC is fixing a bike lane and intersection where a bike rider was killed earlier this summer.

Arlington VA is conducting a trial next month to see how well bicycling volunteers can deliver emergency supplies and messages following a disaster. But oddly, they’re charging people to participate.

A North Carolina newspaper says if the city is bike friendly, where are the bike lanes?

 

International

The Guardian says urban walking could save humanity.

Bike riding is growing in Toronto, even as the BBC calls it the worst city in the world for bicycling.

London’s Scotland Yard has developed a “shocking” 360° virtual reality film to show the dangers of riding a bike near large trucks.

A member of the British Parliament accepted an invitation to ride with a bicyclist after his Conservative party sent out a since-deleted tweet promising a crackdown on dangerous bicycling. Many, if not most, of LA’s elected officials agreed to meet and ride with bicyclists when they filled out candidate questionnaires from the LACBC, but to the best of my knowledge, no one has ever held them to that. Maybe we should change that.

Seriously? A UK study shows Millennials are spending more on hobbies, including bicycling, than their elders, because they have to have the latest fashionable gear and most up-to-date equipment. Which is the exact opposite of most bike riding Millennials I know, but sounds like a lot of older riders.

A pair of British men now officially own the world record for circumnavigating the globe by tandem, riding over 18,000 miles in a little more than 290 days. Speaking of which, tandems are in again.

This is why you have to ride carefully around horses. A woman in the UK suffered a punctured lung when a bike rider tried to pass between her horse and the curb without announcing his presence. Seriously, equestrians can be self-righteous jerks when it comes to demanding exclusive rights to trails and bridges, but both rider and mount can be seriously injured if the horse gets frightened.

The London driver caught on video deliberately swerving at a group of bike riders wasn’t lying when he said the car was stolen; he faces multiple charges for car theft and driving without a license.

A new British government program will spend the equivalent of $645,000 to train driving instructors to teach bicycle awareness to their students.

 

Competitive Cycling

The Continental Jelly Belly-Maxxis team could be on its way out after 18 years, after Jelly Belly announces it’s pulling out at the end of this year.

An Indiana mountain biker is still winning races after 25 years.

 

Finally…

Apparently, you ride like a moose. An injured goose’s goose isn’t  cooked, thanks to a pair of bike riders.

And evidently, there were no major advances in road bikes before 1948.

 

Juries, Judges and Your Bike Crash

Bikes Have Rights™
By James L. Pocrass, Esq.
Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP 

Jury box

This may well be the most controversial blog post I’ll ever write. It’s likely that many of you are going to hate reading this. Some of you will tell me that what I say here isn’t fair and that I’m blaming the victim.

Be assured, I’ve represented many bicycle riders in bike crashes and I know as well or better than anyone how the system is stacked against them. As to fairness, well, it isn’t fair that I don’t have the same head of hair that I had as a younger man either, but that’s the way it is.

What I’m going to tell you is the hard truth. It’s not fair, but it IS an undeniable, regrettable fact: many people have strong, negative feelings about cyclists. If you are in a bike crash and it goes to trial, the judge and/or jurors will probably not be cyclists.

Though the people on your jury and the judge presiding over your trial have probably encountered hundreds – if not thousands – of law-abiding bicyclists, those aren’t who they remember. They remember the helmetless cyclist who cut them off or rode through a red light and saluted them with a middle finger as they blew by. It’s always that “one” ne’er-do-well who people remember.

The U.S. Bicycling Participation Benchmark Report, commissioned by People for Bikes, reported that though the number of Americans ages 3+ who rode a bicycle last year is larger than had been previously thought, 30% of these cyclists rode 5 days or fewer in 2014.

The chance of getting a cyclist on your jury or a judge is probably even worse when you add the number of seniors who willingly sit on juries. (Think of that the next time you attempt to get out of jury duty or complain about being called for jury duty.)

The result is that the judge and jurors, more than likely, are going to be people who are biased against cyclists. When I am questioning potential jurors in a bicycle case, some of the most common comments I get from people are:

  • Bike riders ride recklessly, not stopping at red lights or stop signs.
  • Bike riders should ride on the sidewalk and stay out of traffic.
  • Bike riders ride too fast on the sidewalk.
  • Bike riders ride in car lanes, sometimes side-by-side or as a group, which interferes with traffic.
  • Roads are for cars, not bikes.

You know all this. If these things have never been said to your face, you’ve read them in comments on articles and posts on social media.

These are the people who are going to decide your legal case. Their inclination is going to be to blame YOU – the cyclist – for your own “accident.” Furthermore, insurance adjustors and defense attorneys know this, and they are going to cater to this bias.

It would be nice if more people understood the rules of the road. “Fair” doesn’t enter into the equation. In a trial, we have to deal with the hand we’ve been dealt, and in most bike crash trials, it’s contending with the prejudice against our cyclist client.

To be successful in trial it is critical for your trial lawyer to understand how people perceive you. As a trial lawyer, I have numerous strategies I utilize to attempt either to overcome this bias or to focus the jurors on the person the cyclist is, not his/her activity. I want the juror to see the cyclist as a person who has more in common with the jurors than s/he has different. An experienced trial lawyer utilizes specific strategies in every part of the trial, from jury selection at the beginning of the trial to how jury instructions are crafted near the end of the trial, and everything in-between.

I believe we can change these preconceptions, but it isn’t easy, and it isn’t going to happen tomorrow, next month, or even next year.

As a cyclist – whether you ride for recreation or as a commuter – you can be part of the solution. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Join the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition and your local bicycle advocacy organization. Even better, get involved. These people are on the frontline of change. At the very least, sign up for the LACBC’s e-newsletter (no membership required) and join these advocacy organizations’ Facebook pages. (And in a shameful plug, “friend” the FB Pocrass & De Los Reyes Bicycle Law page, too.)
  1. I suggested above that you join your local advocacy organization. Many of these are chapters of LACBC, all of them work together. Almost all cities have such organizations, including Claremont, Pomona, the Eastside, Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, Santa Clarita, and many more.
  1. Join the California Bicycle Coalition, our state-wide organization that is instrumental in lobbying for biking conditions and laws for California cyclists.
  1. Get involved with SAFE (Streets are for Everyone). The nonprofit advocates for changes in the law to make streets safe for bicyclists, motorcyclists, pedestrians, skateboarders, and everyone else.
  1. Know and follow the Rules of the Road. The LACBC has a wonderful wallet-sized brochure that explains what these are. They are available at every event attended by the LACBC. The organization also is offering FREE bicycle safety classes through the end of September throughout the Southland. Don’t be that one cyclist who will be burned into the brain of those who come in contact with him/her for his/her bad behavior.
  1. Cyclists over the age of 18 are not required by law to wear a helmet when they ride. We strongly urge you to wear one, regardless of your age. The obvious reason for wearing a helmet is that it very likely increases your chances of surviving or limiting brain injury should you crash. A less obvious reason is that not wearing one adds to the jurors’ and judge’s biases that you SHOULD HAVE BEEN wearing a helmet and if you had been wearing one, it would have protected you so your injuries “are your own fault.” (Don’t kill the messenger, please. I said I was going to talk reality here.)
  1. Think before you post on social media. Specifically, insurance companies and defense attorneys troll your social media accounts to see what can be used against you. What you write on social media will come back if you’re ever a plaintiff in a jury trial. Generally, furious posts filled with expletives (I understand the urge, believe me), reinforce non-cyclists’ attitudes about the “arrogance” of cyclists.
  1. Educate the non-cyclists you know. Back up your arguments with facts and statistics. Try to be calm and rational in the discussion, but the one-on-one discussions are the best way to change perceptions. Remember, no one goes out to kill someone with their car (okay, almost no one), but most drivers are angry because they’re scared. No one taught them how to share the road. No one taught them how to drive sharing the road with a cyclist. You can say that’s not your problem, but the truth is, it’s everybody’s problem.

Often when I read bikinginla.com and see the slap on the wrist so many drivers get for hitting cyclists, I am frustrated by the slowness of the process to eliminate cyclist bias. But it’s coming, and by working together, I believe we can make it happen.


 

Jim Pocrass Trimmed

Jim Pocrass, Pocrass & De Los Reyes LLP

For more than 30 years, Jim Pocrass has represented people who were seriously injured, or families who lost a loved one in a wrongful death, due to the carelessness or negligence of another. Jim is repeatedly named to Best Lawyers of America and to Southern California Super Lawyers for the outstanding results he consistently achieves for his clients. Having represented hundreds of cyclists during his career, and Jim’s own interest in cycling, have resulted in him becoming a bicycle advocate. He is a board member of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition. For a free, no-obligation consultation, contact Jim Pocrass at 310.550.9050 or at [email protected] or visit www.pocrass.com.

 

 

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