Shortage of Proof Stymies Louisiana Family’s Negligence Suit in Fatal Motorcycle Crash

Sometimes, when one driver crashes into another and injures or kills that second driver, there are more people or entities at fault than just that first driver. In the case of one motorcyclist’s death in a “demo ride” event, however, neither the event’s sponsor nor its host were liable. The Louisiana Court of Appeal agreed with a trial court’s conclusion that the deceased driver’s family failed to prove that the sponsor and host fell short of satisfying their duties to protect the safety of the motorcyclists.

In the early spring of 2010, Keith Alleman encountered a group of motorcyclists participating in a “demo ride” in a small town in Lafayette Parish. Alleman became distracted by the bikes and lost control of his car, slamming into a motorcycle driven by Ralph Doucet. Doucet died from his injuries.

The Doucet family sued several people and groups, including two entities that had organized the ride, Harley Davidson, Inc. (the sponsor) and Cajun Cycles, Inc. (the host). The family accused Harley and Cajun of being negligent in many ways, including “their failure to obtain a police escort for the demo ride and their failure to require that the demo riders wear safety gear and use headlight modulators.” The family also asserted that the sponsor and host were negligent in picking a route that was especially dangerous.

The trial court and appeals court both sided with Harley and Cajun. The only evidence the family had backing up their assertion that the sponsor and host had a duty to secure a police escort was a local ordinance code section governing the requirement of a permit for a “procession, march, parade or trail ride.” The section made no mention of police escorts for any of these events, so the family could not rely on this code to prove that the sponsor and host had a duty to secure a police escort for the demo ride.

The evidence in the case also did not support the family’s claim that the sponsor and host were liable for the lack of safety gear and use of headlight modulators. The only proof the family had was one lay witness, who testified that Harley’s and Cajun’s inaction made the motorcyclists less conspicuous. However, Alleman testified that he lost control of his car because he was a motorcycle enthusiast and was distracted by inspecting the types of motorcycles the bikers were riding. Based upon this testimony, it seemed clear to the court that making the riders more conspicuous would have done nothing to prevent Alleman’s crash into Doucet, since his loss of control resulted from the bikes being too distracting, rather than too inconspicuous.

The family’s claim based upon the route also came up short. The Doucet family had no proof to establish either that a safer alternative existed or that the route used was otherwise unreasonably dangerous. With no proof that the sponsor and host had a duty to obtain a police escort, failed to take “reasonable safety precautions,” or chose an unreasonably unsafe ride route, the family’s case against Harley and Cajun was insufficient, the court ruled.

The Louisiana motorcycle accident attorneys at the Cardone Law Firm have helped motorcycle accident victims across the state, from Plaquemines Parish to New Orleans to Lafayette Parish. Our injury attorneys are highly experienced and can provide honest, clear advice and determined representation to help you with your case.

For a confidential consultation, contact us online or phone Cardone at 504-522-3333.

More Blog Posts:

Proving Causation in Your Louisiana Auto Accident Injury Case, Louisiana Injury Lawyers Blog, May 11, 2015

Using Uninsured Motorist Coverage to Collect in Auto Accident Injury or Death Cases, Louisiana Injury Lawyers Blog, May 11, 2015

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