A few weeks ago, a mob of motorcyclists and the Lien family, who were in a black Ranger Rover SUV, were involved in a violent incident. In recent days, more information has came out about the incident and it raises some interesting legal implications. Based on a video of the incident and news reports, the following appears to have occurred:
* The motorcycle riders had organized for a Hollywood Stuntz event. This event had a history in that the year before the motorcyclists had effectively shut down traffic in Times Square.
* Earlier that day but prior to the incident involving the Liens, New York police had received hundreds of complaints about the motorcyclists and their behavior.
* The LIen incident began when one of the motorcycle riders appeard to "brake-check" the Liens i.e, the motorcyclist purposefully slammed on his brakes in an attempt to cause contact.
* After the Lien vehicle bumped the motorcycle, the other riders became angry and began attacking the Lien vehicle which was occupied by Mr. Lien, his wife and their 2 year old daughter. The attack included slashing of tires, beating on windows with helmets, etc.
*Allegedly fearing for his safety and the safety of his family, Mr. Lien fleed from the mob. In the process, he ran over several motorcycles and one of the motorcyclists, Edwin Mieses, who was apparently only watching the melee.
* Mieses suffered two broken legs and paralysis.
* Because the tires on the SUV had been slashed, the Lien family was unable to make get away from the scene. When the SUV stopped again, Mr. Lien's window was smashed and some of the mob pulled him from the vehicle where he was beaten and slashed with a knife until two brave Good Samaritans intervened.
* During the ensuing police investigation, it was revealed that several undercover and off-duty officers, one a ten year veteran, were part of the motorcycle mob.
* Mieses is now being represented by family lawyer Gloria Allred who is threatening legal action against Mr. Lien for Mieses' injuries.
* Mieses reportedly has been ticketed by police 16 times and adjudicated a habitual traffic offender. He apparently did not have a valid driver's license on the day of the incident and had never applied for a motorcycle license.
There are lots of things to reflect on as a result of this incident:
1. Mob violence is real. The fact that veteran police officers were allegedly involved in this incident shows it is not just young, immature thugs who can behave in such a fashion. To be clear, most motorcycle riders are responsible citizens and this type of mob conduct is not typical of most motorcycle riders. But our experience tells us that some people do things in groups that they would never consider doing if they were alone.
2. Mieses can certainly bring suit against Mr. Lien but winning that suit is the real issue. If this case were in Tennessee, a jury would be asked to decide if Mr. Mieses was comparatively at fault in his actions that day. Even if he was not a part of the physical altercation, did his presence and participation in the mob's overall conduct constitute negligence on his part? If so, Mr. Mieses' recovery will be reduced by his percentage of fault assessed against him. If suit is brought, it will be interesting to see if Mr. Lien brings a counter-claim against Mr. Mieses for his conduct that day.
3. If the civil case between Mr. Mieses and Mr. LIen had occurred in Tennessee, additional legal issues would have to be addressed such as the fault of the other members of the mob including the rider who stopped short and those who engaged in the physical attack on Mr. Lien.
4. One final issue bears discussion: the retention of attorney Gloria Allred by the family of Mr. Mieses. While Ms. Allred is often seen in high-profile cases, she promotes herself as primarily a family law, discrimination and feminist-cause attorney. So the Mieses family hiring her for a personal injury case is interesting. Certainly, the selection of the right attorney can be difficult, but there are questions that can be asked to help you make the right choice of lawyer. My guess is that Ms. Allred will get the help of a lawyer experienced in personal injury law to assist her in this case.
There is lots of missing information about this case, but the discovery process will help the litigants and those of us who are causal observers learn the real facts. We will come back to this case from time to time and give you an update.