Some of the most disheartening news stories come when we see the reckless and negligent behavior of police officers cause serious injury or death to the people they’ve sworn to protect.
The law affecting motorcyclists gets complicated when Police Officers exercise their right to use due force to stop a fleeing motorcycle. As you will see in this article, there are many factors that the officer must consider before using force – all of which aim to limit the consequences and injury to the rider, officer, and general public.
Unfortunately, the use of force to stop a motorcyclist in New York has often resulted in serious injury and in many cases even death.
An all-too-familiar incident occurred in New York City on August 23rd 2023 when a Police Department sergeant threw a picnic at a fleeing dirt biker, ultimately causing their death.
A news release from the Attorney General’s office (1) described the following:
“On the evening of August 23, in the vicinity of 2505 Aqueduct Avenue, an NYPD officer threw a picnic cooler at Mr. Duprey, who was riding a motorbike. The cooler hit Mr. Duprey and caused him to fall on the ground. Mr. Duprey was pronounced dead at the scene.”
The actions that killed Eric Duprey last month are common in the 5 boroughs, and families must be aware of their options in case a loved one becomes injured while riding a motorcycle.
As you will see later in this article, contacting an experienced New York Injury Attorney is a great first step in ensuring justice for yourself or a loved one and recover for injuries.
What exactly happened in Mr. Duprey’s Accident Last Month?
We know that Eric Duprey was forcefully removed from his motorbike in an action by police that ultimately resulted in his death. Was there legal precedence allowing for the deadly forced use by police that day?
According to CBS New York, “Surveillance video captured the moment Duprey fled down Aqueduct Avenue on the sidewalk on a motorbike when the force of the object thrown at him caused him to lose control. Police said the man that launched the object at Duprey was (NYPD Sgt) Duran, who was part of a plain clothes buy-and-bust operation that was working to apprehend 30-year-old Duprey for selling narcotics.” (2)
Clearly, there are instances where officers are authorized to use deadly force to stop motorcyclists. In the case of Mr. Duprey, ethical and legal concerns become complicated by the factors and overall situation that unfolded.
On one hand, Mr. Duprey was fleeing from a felony, driving on the sidewalk, and posing danger to himself and others.
On the other, he was trying to get out of a difficult situation, without deadly weapons and not intending to harm anyone. Most certainly, the crime he committed did not warrant his death earlier this summer.
This investigation is currently ongoing and the officer at fault has been suspended without pay, pending criminal investigation.
“The NYPD is committed to ensuring there will be a full, thorough, and transparent investigation of this incident to determine the facts and to take the appropriate steps forward,” the release said.
What Must Officers Consider Before Using Deadly Force?
The use of deadly force to stop a motorcycle is typically a last resort after other methods have failed. Stopping a motorcycle by force in any matter can result in serious injury and death, and so must be lawful, proportionate, and reasonable based on the circumstances.
Essentially, there must be good reason for the use of deadly force on a motorist. The following factors must be heavily considered and will come into play during the investigation phase of accidents:
- Prior attempts to stop the motorbike rider
- Road conditions
- Seriousness of the crime
- Likelihood the force could result in serious injury and death
- Risk to the rider of taking action
- Risk to the public of not taking action
In many cases like Mr. Duprey’s, one or more of these factors are not fully considered and cause undue damage that might have been avoided. In these events, criminal charges can be made against the officer, and the family of the victim can potentially recover for their loss.
Leav & Steinberg Secures $1.75 Million for the Family of Dirt Bike Rider
Our firm was retained to represent the family Eddie Fernandez, a 28 year old dirt bike rider, after he passed away during a Bronx police chase several years ago.
Fernandez and his best friend, Adalberto Gonzalez were riding dirt bikes on Randall Avenue in the Bronx when an NYPD cruiser struck their bikes. Officer Edward McCain of the NYPD was driving his patrol car hit Gonzalez’s bike first. When Gonzalez fled and hopped on the back of our client Eddie Fernandez’s bike, Officer McCain rammed them from the back.
In news coverage from AMNY (3), Gonzalez described the incident: “I was riding my own — we had two different bikes — and the cops knocked me off of one, they hit me off of that,” Gonzalez told amNewYork. “I ran, met up with Eddie and I jumped on his bike. The cop hit us from the back.”
Fernandez’s body subsequently flew off the bike and hit a light pole, he died that day from his injuries.
The family of Eddie Fernandez retained Leav & Steinberg to help them recover from the loss of their son. In 2018 our firm was able to secure a settlement of $1.75 million for Mr. Fernandez’s family.
According to partner Edward Steinberg, “… while Fernandez’s family ‘will never get to spend time with Eddie, we feel that the settlement provides them with some level of justice and acknowledgment that Eddie’s death was not of his doing.’”
You can find more information as well as pictures in an Article from the Daily Mail (4).
The New York Traffic Attorneys at Leav & Steinberg are Here to Help
If you or a loved one has been injured while operating a motorcycle or other motor vehicle in New York, you would be well-advised to contact an experienced injury attorney. As you should have seen in this article, there are many options for the families of these victims to recover and get justice for their loved ones.
The attorneys at Leav & Steinberg are well-versed in New York’s Traffic laws and have experience in helping victims and their families recover after sustaining serious injury while operating vehicles on the streets of New York.
If you or someone you know has been injured while operating a motorbike or other vehicle in New York, it is important that you contact a New York Injury Lawyer that’s well-versed in Traffic Laws as soon as possible. Contact Us for a free consultation to see if your case might be eligible for recovery.