Motorcycle Law: Collisions To Die For is presented in two parts. This is the concluding, part 2 of the article, and continues from Motorcycle Law, Part 1. This part 2 includes the References, which are presented at the end/bottom of the page.




< ... continued from Motorcycle Law: Collisions To Die For, Part 1 ....>


To Tell The Truth

In Shepard v Duhon, the motorcycle driver sued the driver of a car he hit at an intersection.

Forensic evidence saved the day as did some incredible testimony by the motorcycle driver about his speed.

Justice Klees of the Court of Appeal of Louisiana wrote:

"The car and motorcycle collided at approximately 10:00 a.m. on a sunny, clear, dry day at the intersection of Beechwood and Eunice Streets. Beechwood is the favored street, with Eunice controlled by a stop sign at the intersection. Both are two-way residential streets with no center stripes. The motorcycle was proceeding northward on Beechwood, but there was a dispute at trial as to whether Mr. Duhon's car was travelling southward on Beechwood preparing to make a left turn onto Eunice (as defendants contended), or westward on Eunice intending to turn right at Beechwood (as plaintiff contended). Regardless of which version of the accident is accepted, however, there was sufficient evidence presented from which the jury reasonably could have concluded that Mr. Duhon was not at fault. Specifically, a preponderance of the evidence indicated that the plaintiff was speeding, that Mr. Duhon's vehicle was stopped....

[motorcyclist and passenger]"The speed limit on Beechwood is twenty miles per hour. Although plaintiff testified that he was going twenty to twenty-five miles per hour, this testimony was contradicted by both defendants' experts and by plaintiff's own expert. Mr. Burkart, an expert in accident reconstruction who testified for the defendants, estimated plaintiff's speed at forty to fifty miles per hour.... Mr. Gould, plaintiff's own expert in accident reconstruction, testified that the motorcycle was going about thirty-five miles per hour. Mr. Gould admitted that the plaintiff should not have been entering an intersection at that speed and that the excessive speed of the motorcycle contributed to the accident.... If the motorcycle had been going twenty miles per hour, there would have been sufficient reaction time for plaintiff to have avoided the collision."


Blame the Town

In Rucker v Allis, a motorcycle driver was killed when a minivan crossed over to the passing lane to pass a slow-moving tractor, but failed to properly check first. There, the motorcycle of Michael Rucker was hit head-on.

His estate tried to sue the local government for failing to keep the highways safe (!) and, needless to say, the claim was dismissed.

Drunk Teenagers Kill

Cooper v Bondini has a neat little twist.

"At about one o'clock on the morning of July 4, 1988, the twenty-four-year-old plaintiff, Raymond Cooper, was riding his motorcycle north on a hilly stretch of Harrah Road, near Harrah, Oklahoma. At the same time and place a southbound automobile driven by the sixteen-year-old defendant, Tracy Lynn McGaha, moved into the northbound lane in an attempt to pass a slower-moving vehicle on a hill at a point marked as a no-passing zone. While on the wrong side of the road, McGaha's vehicle crashed head-on into Cooper's motorcycle. Cooper survived but sustained serious personal injuries....

[motorcycle accident image]"It was not long before the tragic event that the defendants had left defendant Johnson's house and were on their way to pick up some girls to go swimming. Defendants Juston Bondoni, Michael Johnson, David Hollifield, and Derrick Eaton, all age sixteen, were passengers in the McGaha vehicle at the time of the accident. They had all been drinking alcoholic beverages that night and according to driver McGaha, the passengers were all yelling and screaming and talking loud.

"It was under these circumstances that McGaha came upon a slower-moving pickup truck. Each of the passengers became irritated because they were riding so slow and, according to McGaha, everybody encouraged and urged him to violate the law and pass the pickup on a hill clearly marked as a no-passing zone. Feeling ... peer pressure, McGaha yielded and attempted to pass the truck, which, of course, resulted in the tragedy."

Mr. Cooper sought to sue not only the driver, of course, Mr. McGaha, but also all four passengers for materially contributing to his injuries. They resisted being added as defendants but the courts dismissed their application to be removed, leaving it to the multiple insurance companies to sort contributions out.


In Brown v Roadway, the Supreme Court of Vermont summarized the facts as follows:

"On July 13, 1995, a tractor-trailer truck driven by Heyman and owned by Roadway Express was proceeding northbound on Route 12 en route from Northfield to Barre. Heyman was an employee of Roadway Express, acting within the scope of his employment. The accident occurred in Berlin, just north of the point where Route 12 crosses beneath a railway overpass. A sign in the northbound lane of Route 12 warns motorists that the overpass is 13 feet, 2 inches above the ground. The truck required a clearance of 13 feet, 6 inches. Heyman, aware that his truck could clear the overpass by traveling in the southbound lane but not the northbound one, drove the truck across the double-yellow line of the highway and into the southbound lane, passed under the overpass and struck head-on the motorcycle driven by William Brown. The motorcycle driver sustained injuries, and his brother, a passenger, was killed in the accident."

[motorcycle after accident]Even though the Roadway Express truck clearly threw caution to the wind in attempting to run the bridge from the wrong lane, they still tried to argue at trial that he was just trying to adjust to an obstruction in the road. But the court denied the defence and found Hayman was negligent:

"A bridge does not become an obstruction simply because the operator is driving a truck too large to fit under it."

Dumber Meets Dumbest

Mallory v. Cloud is a weird case of two very stupid drivers, one on a motorcycle (Thomas Mallory), the other inside a Volkswagen Beetle (James Cloud), neither with lights on even though it was a moon-less night on a country hill. They were both racing for the top but from opposite directions.



The first trial ended in damages awarded to the estate of Mr. Mallory but Cloud and company appealed and a new trial was ordered and there, the law reports suddenly end.

Legal Opinion

It strikes some observers as amazing - almost incredulous - that motorcycle law has not strongly branched out as a separate area of traffic law, with its own fledgling but ultimately reasonable principles of negligence. Such a body of law would enhance driver safety by accommodating the peculiarities of the physics of motorcycle transportation instead of awkwardly forcing upon motorcycle cases the physics of 4-wheel vehicles.


Motorcycle Law: Collisions To Die For is presented in two parts. This is the concluding, part 2 of the article, and continues from Motorcycle Law: Part 1. This part 2 includes the References, which are presented at the end/bottom of the page.