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Wednesday, July 17, 2024 | Back issues
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Man Says Texting Cop|Nearly Killed Him

AUSTIN, Texas (CN) - A motorcyclist claims an Austin police officer who was texting while driving ran a stop sign and creamed him, hurting him so badly he needed 12 surgeries. The biker sued the city and two tech companies, for making the police computers without a lockout system to prevent texting while driving.

Louis Olivier says he was driving legally when police Officer Damon Dunn ran a stop sign hit him: "The force of the collision literally knocked Mr. Olivier out of his shoes. He sustained severe and life-altering injuries, requiring 12 surgeries, as a result of the accident."

Olivier claims Officer Dunn hit him because he was using his "Mobile Data Computer," which "disastrously diverted his attention from the roadway."

"Officer Dunn operated an Austin Police Department patrol vehicle equipped with a Mobile Data Computer (Panasonic Toughbook) with software designed, marketed, and sold by defendants TriTech Software Systems and Versaterm U.S. Corp." according to the complaint in Travis County Court. "Defendants' software enabled, condoned, and promoted texting while driving."

The complaint adds: "Patrol officers utilizing a mobile data computer while driving remove their eyes from the roadway 4 out of every 6 seconds. During the 2 seconds the patrol officer's eyes are on the roadway, inattention blindness prevents him from processing the size, color, or importance of what he sees. APD Officer Dunn did not see Louis Olivier until he struck him."

And, the complaint states: "Over 100 cities have passed regulations prohibiting texting while driving. In October of 2009, Austin passed an ordinance prohibiting texting while driving, but, without informed and considered deliberations, exempted the Austin Police Department."

Olivier claims Dunn's computer and computer system were defectively designed by TriTech Software Systems and Versaterm US Corp. because they did not include a lock-out system to prevent officers from texting while driving.

"There was a safer alternative design other than the one used, including the incorporation of lock-out features through a Global Positioning System, which were economically and technologically feasible at the time of production and would have prevented or significantly reduced the risk of the accident and/or injury in question without substantially impairing the mobile software's utility," the complaint states.

Olivier adds that Officer Dunn "failed to yield the right of way, failed to stop at a posted stop sign and collided with Mr. Olivier in the intersection of Magazine Street and Lamplight Village Avenue. Officer Dunn's patrol camera captured the collision on video."

Olivier seeks damages for gross negligence and product liability. He is represented by Mikal Watts with Watts Guerra Craft. Olivier's daughter, Karen Hayden, seeks damages for loss of consortium.

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