Saturday, December 18, 2010

Man sues city after patrol car hits him

Updated: Tuesday, 14 Dec 2010, 11:29 PM CST
Published : Tuesday, 14 Dec 2010, 8:22 PM CST

AUSTIN (KXAN) - A lawsuit against the City of Austin alleges Austin Police Officer Damon Dunn's use of his full integrated mobile data computer disastrously diverted his attention causing the collision.

The petition names not only the City of Austin but also two companies that manufacture software that gave the officer the capability to use his computer while driving.

On May 29th, 74 year old Louis Olivier's life changed forever. A patrol car dash cam captured the second when Officer Damon Dunn ran a stop sign and hit Olivier, literally knocking him out of his shoes, according to the suit.

"His life is different there's no question about it," said Olivier's Attorney Guy Watts.

Watts says his client has undergone 12 surgeries, suffered injuries to his right leg, knee and ankle, and had to have muscle pulled from his back and put into his leg.

"He went from an...extremely active man, retired, riding bikes, playing golf--that sort of thing, to now he's completely dependent upon his daughter," said Olivier.

That is why Olivier's daughter is also named as a plaintiff in the suit.

"It has changed her relationship with her father to one where she's not just daughter she's his nurse," said Watts.

Defendants in the suit are the City of Austin, Tritech Software Systems and Versaterm U.S. Corporation.

"It's our position the software, as designed, meaning allowing and promoting texting while driving--is a defective product," said Watts.

Although the city bans texting while driving--police are exempt.

"Best I can tell nobody asked the question why are we exempting police from this behavior," said Watts.

The lawsuit cites research that indicates distracted driving takes eyes off the road four out of six seconds and leads to a condition where a driver does not process what he sees -- even during the two seconds his eyes are on the road.

"You can see a piece of litter in the road but you can't differentiate between that being a piece of litter or a child...your mind does not process that information and render it useful in anyway," said Watts.

Watts says his clients hope the lawsuit brings change, not only in behavior but also in limiting what technology allows drivers to do while driving.
APD has said it uses new screens that make the print bolder and larger and is looking into voice technology and additional safety training for officers when using laptops.
The City of Austin does not comment on pending litigation.

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