Motorcyclist hit by APD suing two software companies



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Posted on June 7, 2011 at 9:10 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jun 8 at 10:01 AM

A motorcyclist hit by an Austin Police Department officer says his $250,000 settlement from the city is not enough. The victim and his lawyer are not placing the lion's share of the blame on the officer in this case, but on the technology that they say allowed the accident to happen.

Louis Olivier, 75, rode up the escalator at his house with his dogs Macie and Matilda on Tuesday.  What was easy to miss in the man's best friend moment is why Olivier needs the escalator.

Dashcam video shows APD officer Damon Dunn running the stop sign at Magazine and Lamplight Village in North Austin and colliding with Olivier who was on his motorcycle. Police documents show Dunn was typing on his computer data terminal at the time of the accident.

That was a year and one week ago. Since then, Olivier has endured four skin grafts on his legs.

"I would say five months I went through pain 24-hours a day," said Olivier.

Olivier recently received a $250,000 settlement from the city. It is the most the state allows the city to pay in liability cases. 

"When something has been set in concrete, that's all they are going to pay," said Olivier.

Olivier says even after the settlement, he is left with about $500,000 in medical bills. That is why he is pursuing a first-of-its-kind lawsuit against two software manufacturers, Tritech and Versaterm.

"From the beginning we never really blamed the city," said Guy Watts, the attorney representing Olivier.  "This lawsuit has always been about the product manufacturers who enable vehicles to turn into mobile offices."

Watts says the technology existed to disable the use of the computer keyboard once the police vehicle started moving.

"What is certain is that in 2005, when these products were purchased by the city, there was a capability to prevent this accident," said Watts.

Olivier hopes the lawsuit sends a clear message.

"If they can develop a system that will allow the police not to text and drive, there won't be another Louis getting hurt on the road on his motorcycle or in his car," said Olivier.  "It will not happen again."

Watts says the timing may be right for this lawsuit.  President Obama recently issued an executive order that essentially prohibits texting while driving a federal vehicle.