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Truck operator in Water Avenue fatality cited for dangerous turn, failure to signal

Posted by on November 14th, 2017 at 11:26 am

The man driving the garbage truck that was involved in the collision that killed Tamar Monhait on August 21st has been issued two traffic citations.

The Portland Police Bureau has cited Paul Thompson for a Dangerous Left Turn and Failure to Signal a Turn. The former is a Class C traffic violation that comes with a presumptive fine of $260 and the latter is a Class D violation that has a presumptive fine of $110. If Thompson challenges the citations in court the fines could be dropped to $130 and $60 respectively.

After a fatal collision, it’s standard procedure for the PPB to defer any citation decisions until after the District Attorney completes their investigation. On October 26th the Multnomah County DA declined to pursue criminal charges against Thompson. The DA found no evidence that Thompson engaged in the behaviors required to reach the legal threshold to prove a criminal recklessness or negligence.

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Monhait was operating her bicycle at a safe speed within the bike lane prior to the collision. However, investigators determined she was under the influence of intoxicants, was not wearing reflective or high contrast clothing, and did not have a legally required front light on her bicycle. Those factors and others were noted in a memo issued by the DA that explains why police chose to not pursue elevated charges against Thompson.

Even though Thompson was operating a large truck in the central city and made a dangerous turn across a bike lane without using his signal, the PPB felt his actions did not even warrant a (non-criminal) Careless driving charge. As defined in ORS 811.135, someone is guilty of careless driving if they drive, “in a manner that endangers or would be likely to endanger any person or property.”

I asked the lead DA on this case, Nicole Jergovic, why the police didn’t cite for careless driving (and the additional consequence of causing death to a vulnerable roadway user). Jergovic said the rationale for a finding of careless is similar to what was laid out in the DA’s memo. “We’re looking at the same fact base that applies to the criminal case,” she said. After all is said and done, in the eyes of the DA and the police, the only things Thompson did wrong were to not use his turn signal and not yield the right of way.

Monhait’s family is seeking $24 million in a lawsuit against the trucking company who Thompson was driving for. Lawyers for the trucking company, Republic Services Alliance Group/McInnis Waste Systems, Inc., blame Monhait for own death.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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Jonathan Radmacher
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Jonathan Radmacher

The description of the defense is a little sensationalistic. In nearly every negligence case the defendant asserts a defense of comparative fault, which creates the issue of whether the injured or deceased person did anything that contributed to the accident. Any percentage fault attributable to the plaintiff will only reduce the damages awarded, unless that fault is found by the jury to be greater than 50%, in which case the defendant prevails.

Paul Atkinson
Guest
Paul Atkinson

“All the driver did was to break these two small rules. That it killed someone does not enter into it from a legal standpoint, so it’s a small citation and you’re on your way.”

If the DA is correct, and that’s the accepted interpretation of Oregon law, then we need a new law. If not, we need a new DA.

Middle of the Road Guy
Guest
Middle of the Road Guy

Or you can start killing drivers and risk only a small fine 🙂

Tom Hardy
Guest
Tom Hardy

Pe3rsonally I can say that with all of the motorist created maiming and deaths of VULNERABLE USERS! in the last few years The DA definitely needs to be replaced. I is rather difficult for a motorist to even be ticketed let alone fined in greater Portland. If there is a gunshot fired there are 15 to 20 police cars on the way. There are policemen stumbling all over each other to try to find spent bullets or casings for hours. If a policeman runs into someone while headed for coffee with no lights or siren. Citations are issued to any civilian present charged for the damages. If a vulnerable user is injured for any reason, the vulnerable user will be charged for the accident or blamed for the injuries sustained.

Bjorn
Guest
Bjorn

As a member of the small group who wrote the VRU law I can say with absolute certainty that this is precisely the type of case we were trying to address, very frustrating to see an officer who is aware of the statute not applying it in this case. If it had been applied the driver could have contested it in court, as it is now he doesn’t even have to show up and can just mail a check.

Mike Sanders
Guest
Mike Sanders

Accusing her of vehicular suicide makes no sense. This should at least be manslaughter! The fact that the driver esentially gets a slap on the wrist and gets to walk away is illogical. In other words, it’s not the driver’s fault she died, it’s hers. If this is how the law is being interpreted, then we need to change the law.

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

Don’t signal and run somebody over in your 50,000lb truck? $110. Yep.

shirtsoff
Guest
shirtsoff

Statements about “riding too fast” continue to confound rationale sense. What is the posted speed limit? Republic Services Alliance Group is asserting that Monhait was riding in excess of the posted speed. I am calling bull. Until I see a reading that Monhait was traveling at 26 Miles Per Hour and in excess of the posted speed limit this is a boldfaced lie to distort what happened.

Ryan Janssen
Guest
Ryan Janssen

I understand that the company is trying ti limit liability, but these statements are just gross. Does anyone know if there’s a way I can request that Republic Services Alliance Group is never responsible for picking up my garbage?

Middle of the Road Guy
Guest
Middle of the Road Guy

The ones they are paid to live on.

rsk
Guest
rsk

This is insane.
Oregon law doesn’t require bright/reflective clothing or use of a helmet.
And how can they even prove the brakes/too fast thing? The only thing they have her on is a light, but that’s the death penalty?
This is depressing. I fear victim blaming is the new normal.
And that D.A. is not good at his job.
I’ve gotten bigger fines for rolling a stop sign.

Phil Richman
Subscriber

Sickening

Will
Guest
Will

PBOT engineers have blood on their hands. Their utter refusal & repeated failure to build safer, protected lanes leads to preventable deaths like this one. Protected lanes have been shown to reduce speeding & collisions. PBOT knows this and still chooses the more lethal option. They should be ashamed of themselves and the senseless violence they allow on our streets.

Buzz
Guest
Buzz

I call BS on this, it was an intersection collision, what could/would a protected bike lane have done to prevent it?

Buzz
Guest
Buzz

The fact that Tamar was ‘under the influence of intoxicants’ should have absolutely no bearing on the DA’s decision whether to prosecute the truck driver or not; that’s just a red herring, like whether the cyclist was wearing a helmet or not.

q
Guest
q

I read a case (which I’m recounting by memory from years ago) by Gerry Spence, the famous trial lawyer. He represented the family of the town drunk, who was run over and killed in a crosswalk. People in the town, and the driver, claimed, “Well he’s the town drunk and he was found to have been very drunk when he was struck, so it’s his own fault”.

Spence won by reminding everyone that the “town drunk” is exactly why we have laws. Crosswalks aren’t there to protect only the young and strong. They’re there for everyone. This guy was VERY drunk, nevertheless he remembered that to cross the street, he needed to get into that crosswalk, which he did. Spence won, and his argument was “Yes, he was drunk. So what?”

It’s not exactly the same situation, and I’m not saying the victim was very drunk or that that should be a focus. I’m just saying if she was, it’s nothing that should take focus off the failings of the driver.

Once you decide to turn without signaling, or turn too soon, as he apparently did, then you’re opening yourself up to the possibility that someone might be there who would have avoided you if you’d signaled or turned where you should have. And if it happens to be someone who’s not able to dodge you due to being not young, not strong, not agile, not fully sober, or whatever, well then that’s your bad luck. It doesn’t make you less blameless.

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

Perhaps there is more similarity in the example you gave…this roadway has marked bike lanes and signage that remind drivers that there are cyclists on the roadway even if they do not “see them”…thus they should expect that my be there and to use one’s turn signals and make planned turns at a speed that an operator can stop quickly a [80,000 GVW?] truck…

JeffS
Guest
JeffS

I agree about the helmet, not so sure about the intoxication. Either way, the lack of a light was all it took for me.

dwk
Guest
dwk

So one night a person rode a bike home without a light and was run over and that is “all it took” for you?
So you NEVER rode a bicycle after dark without a light?
And if you did you deserved to get run over by an illegal turn?
Answer that yes……

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

No one deserves to get run over. If you get run over and you aren’t operating your vehicle legally, don’t expect them to string up the driver. You wouldn’t be able to find a jury in the world that would convict this guy of vehicular manslaughter.

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

“If you get run over and you aren’t operating your vehicle legally, don’t expect them to string up the driver.”

Exactly the problem with the mandatory sidepath law, or the ‘looking at phone while walking’ laws. These are bailout laws for drivers, that absolve them of responsibility for failing to follow driving laws that already exist and are not being enforced.

dwk
Guest
dwk

Again you are protecting this driver for some reason…
And you could certainly find a jury that would convict, the DA just doesn’t want to expend the effort because she was “just a drunk cyclist that doesn’t matter”.

Matt S.
Guest
Matt S.

Maybe it wasn’t the drivers fault, maybe it wasn’t anyones fault. Maybe this was just a serious of unfortunate events intersecting at the wrong moment in time: garbage truck driver’s last second decision to make a turn without signaling; the bicyclists decision to take Water Ave home.

It’s sad to see the commentary on this forum. From what I observe, justice wont come until the driver of the dump truck has his life ruined more than it already has been through criminal proceedings.

My heart goes out to Monhait’s family and also the driver of the truck. Everyone in this picture is suffering. No money can bring Monhait back, but maybe it can ease the pain by setting her family up with financial security while she is gone. As far the the driver of the truck, he’s going to have to live with Monhait’s death for the rest of his life—seems terribly sad to me.

I understand advocates’ concerns of people driving unsafely in Portland, the traffic congestion, the need for safe bicycle infrastructure, the law to protect vulnerable road users, and the law to hold drivers accountable. But maybe no one is at fault here.

For what it’s worth, my grandfather was killed instantly by a drunk driver in 1971. He was in the backseat of a taxi cab when someone in opposite traffic drifted over and hit them head on. His death created an upheaval in my family felt for five decades to this day. The person was charged criminally and I believe served jail time. My family decided not to sue. Also, my grandfather was not wearing his seatbelt. Possibly he would have lived if he had been, but nonetheless, we don’t blame him for not wearing it and we have come to peace with the drunk driver’s decision to drink and drive that night…

Monhait’s death calls for compassion on every front.

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

“…justice wont come until the driver of the dump truck has his life ruined more than it already has been through criminal proceedings”

Don’t get lost in the weeds. The criminal charges have already sailed. The question raised in this post is ‘why doesn’t this even rise to the level of “careless driving”?’

In my mind, that’s what this law is for. If you have a CDL and can whip around in the dark in your 50,000lb truck without signaling and kill somebody and it doesn’t even rise to the level of careless driving, then that law is utterly useless. Again, that is defined as “in a manner that endangers or would be likely to endanger any person or property.”

If you don’t think he should get a careless driving citation, perhaps you could explain why not?

dwk
Guest
dwk

I never said the driver should do jail time…
He should lose his license forever, find another job and his company needs to pay compensation.
I don’t want him driving ever again, seems the least that should be done.
A traffic ticket does not fit the circumstances.

Spiffy
Subscriber

there’s no proof that there was a lack of front light… there’s simply a lack of proof that there WAS a front light… maybe the video didn’t show it and it was pulverized in the crash and lost down the sewer drain…

encephalopath
Guest
encephalopath

Depending on where this company is located (the internets tell me that it’s a company registered in Connecticut) the lawyers who wrote that statement may not know anything about Oregon law.

They try that “no helmet” defense in civil court in Oregon and the judge will smack them upside the head.

ORS 814.489
Use of evidence of lack of protective headgear on bicyclist

Evidence of violation of ORS 814.485 (Failure to wear protective headgear) or 814.486 (Endangering bicycle operator or passenger) and evidence of lack of protective headgear shall not be admissible, applicable or effective to reduce the amount of damages or to constitute a defense to an action for damages brought by or on behalf of an injured bicyclist or bicycle passenger or the survivors of a deceased bicyclist or passenger if the bicyclist or passenger was injured or killed as a result in whole or in part of the fault of another. [1993 c.408 §8]

Scott Kocher
Guest

Our DA is Rod Underhill. He is a cyclist. He is an elected official. Each day he goes to work in the service of you and me. He has fought in Salem and won stronger laws to protect vulnerable road users. And there is a lot more to do. It is appropriate to ask him tough questions. It is appropriate to ask him what the constraints are on pursuing criminal charges (as opposed to civil liability) in a case like this. It is appropriate to ask him what the aggressive but politically viable next steps are to strengthen criminal laws to support safe streets. He needs to hear that people care, and he needs to see verdicts (criminal and civil) to show that the needle is moving, and jurors are willing to hold people to a level of responsibility that is proportional to the harm they can cause when they drive.

Racer X
Guest
Racer X

Good to know, and here is more:
http://mcda.us/index.php/about-the-da/meet-the-da/
http://dpo.org/people/rod-underhill

PRESS:
https://topics.oregonlive.com/tag/rod%20underhill

Let us wonder if the Mayor will be raising the topic of the Monhait case with “his DA”, similar to his questioning the Underhill’s interpretation of the findings in the case below:
http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2017/07/portlands_mayor_pressing_for_a.html#incart_river_index_topics

Only time will tell if there is more political support for protecting vulnerable roadway users…

soren
Guest
soren

not their DA — it’s an independent elected office.

soren
Guest
soren

To put this in perspective, I was fined $260 for cycling past stationary motor vehicles at ~10 mph downtown.

soren
Guest
soren

i passed on the left because in order to avoid the door zone and was cited by officer bill balzer (of critical mass fame) for “unsafe” passing on the left.

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

You should have done it from behind a windshield and claimed it was unintentional.

Al
Guest
Al

Failing to yield to oncoming traffic when making a left turn results in a common accident… in daylight… with other cars. This case could be compared to several others. In fact, I would be surprised to find out that there have not been any accidents where a vehicle turning left cut off a motorcycle causing an accident in this state recently. What happened to those drivers? They would not have had “unseen”, “intoxicated” and “without helmet” as excuses and yet they turned and caused the accident anyway. Were reckless charges pursued then? Why or why not? Did those drivers use “poor judgement of oncoming speed” as legal defenses then? What legal actions were taken by the other drivers, motorcyclists or their families as a result? It would be interesting to find out whether this case is at least being treated like other similar cases.

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

I’m not sure I agree with the use of the word ‘accident’ in those cases. Certainly not ‘common accident’, which all but pretends nothing happened.

Al
Guest
Al

The difference between an accident and not an accident is intent. It’s only not an accident if someone intended for the collision to occur. I don’t believe that most of the collisions on our roads today are intentional. I don’t believe Monhait’s death was intentional, so, yes, the word accident applies. That doesn’t absolve the truck driver. Drivers are still cited for failure to do this and that which faults them for the accident but it’s another thing entirely to say that the truck driver intended to kill Monhait. I don’t believe that and if there was a hint of this then the DA would certainly have gone after the truck driver with criminal charges.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

So you would agree that someone can be prosecuted for criminal negligence, even if they accidentally hit someone? I’m okay with the use of the term “accident”, provided that doesn’t end the conversation about criminality.

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

Also, there is a legal difference between “reckless” and “careless”. The problem in this case is that the driver was not given a citation for careless driving, which seems like a no-brainer to me.

A person commits the offense of careless driving if the person drives any vehicle upon a highway or premises open to the public in a manner that endangers or would be likely to endanger any person or property.

A person commits the offense of reckless driving if the person recklessly drives a vehicle upon a highway or premises open to the public in a manner that endangers the safety of persons or property. “Recklessly,” means that a person is aware of and consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the result will occur or that the circumstance exists. The risk must be of such nature and degree that disregard thereof constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable person would observe in the situation.

Spiffy
Subscriber

“we know that she didn’t have a light and was intoxicated”

to be clear, all we know is that they found no evidence of a light, and that there was a certain amount of alcohol in their blood…

we don’t know if there was a light that didn’t show up in the video and got obliterated or knocked down a sewer during the crash…

we don’t know if they were capable of handling a large amount of liquor…

we don’t have video of the front of the bike to prove if there was a light or not, and we don’t have a field sobriety test to check their level of impairment…

there’s no real evidence that they contributed to their own death in any way…

Keith Mccall
Guest
Keith Mccall

It doesn’t require “criminal negligence” to be “careless” ,
sickening!

Keith / amansworld.top

Maria
Guest
Maria

I am angry and distressed by the downward spiral of our society and the hegemony of motor vehicles. Sickening.

bendite
Guest
bendite

I wouldn’t say it’s downward. It’s more status quo. “I didn’t see him/her” has been a free pass since card have been on the road.

bendite
Guest
bendite

*cars

Joe
Guest
Joe

just the other day riding down Jenkins in Beaverton trash truck oncoming tried to left hook me :/
I was like really im going 19mph and the look in his eyes had no cares about me. 🙁