Meet the Lawyers of Kuzyk Law (VIDEO)

I’m Walt Kuzyk and these are the lawyers of Kuzyk Law – the Big K.

If you’ve been hurt in any accident or suffered burns or brain injury then call the Big K – Kuzyk Law.

Only Kuzyk Law is known as the Insurance Crushers who fight the insurance companies and have collected over $900 million and you pay us nothing until we win.

“Kuzyk law got me $5 million!”

How much is your case worth? Call now 661-945-6969.

Motorcycle Accident Lawyers: The Big K (VIDEO)

“I’m Walt Kuzyk and these are the lawyers of Kuzyk Law – the Big K.”

We’re Kuzyk Law, the Big K, and we know the difference between the rumble of a softail Harley and the whine of a Honda CBR.

And when it comes to motorcycle accidents, we know the difference between an OK settlement and the right one. So if you’ve been injured in any kind of accident, call Kuzyk Law.

We’ve already collected over $900 million.

“Kuzyk Law got me $5 million!”

Call now: 661-945-6969.

CBS News: Can Caitlyn Jenner Sue the Paparazzi? (Interview)

Suzie Suh: Reality TV star Caitlyn Jenner is blaming the paparazzi now for the fatal car crash she was involved in last year in Malibu.

Paul Magers: Well, one of the crash survivors is suing Jenner. CBS 2 Amber Lee spoke to an expert on whether this can hold up in court.

Amber Lee: Now taking aim at the paparazzi, she wants to hold them partly responsible for the now infamous deadly crash on PCH in 2015, which, in part, was captured by surveillance video from a Metro bus.

Reid Breitman: This is a really interesting case. You may recall that the issue of paparazzi chasing celebrities and causing accidents or dangerous conditions has been discussed since the death of Princess Diana.

Amber Lee: We’ve contained course documents of a cross-complaint filed by Caitlyn Jenner’s attorneys, which claimed the crash was in part caused by the celebrity photographers trying to stalk Jenner to get a picture.

Reid Breitman: All she’s saying is basically she’s saying, “look, if I’m liable at all for this, for the damage that the blamed have suffered, then the court should make a fair apportionment between what I have to pay and what these paparazzi and their employers have to pay.”

Amber Lee: Court documents site, so-called stalker defendants, the photographers and their employers, and also the Prius driver who was involved in the multi-car pileup, which killed 69 year-old Kim How. Jenner’s black Cadillac Escalade slammed into How’s white Lexus, which then forced her car to swerve into the on-coming traffic. In these new court documents, Jenner’s attorneys say legal responsibility for the crash should be passed onto the photographers, who they accuse acted together to track Jenner by speeding up to tailgate and driving too close to get a picture.

Reid Breitman: California’s anti-paparazzi law’s definitely gonna play a factor in this case. That law makes it a crime for a paparazzi to drive recklessly in pursuit of an image.

Amber Lee: One of the attorney’s who represents a photographer named in the complaint issued this statement, which reads, in part, “It is unfortunate that Ms. Jenner does not simply take responsibility for her actions instead of trying to cast blame on innocent parties for this unfortunate accident which caused death and serious injury.” Jenner was never charged in the crash and she settled a wrongful death lawsuit with the family of Kim How. Amber lee, CBS2 News.

Robert Ryan Discusses Chris Brown Arrest on KTLA 5 News (VIDEO)

Courtney Friel: And Micha and Cher, we have been outside his home all day long. And that is the latest development – Chris Brown has been transported downtown, where, we’re told, he will be arrested and booked on an assault with a deadly weapon charge.

KTLA: As Scott said, no guns were inside. LAPD Robbery-Homicide is now handling the case, but LA Lawyer Robert Ryan tells me Brown can’t legally possess a firearm in California, and should have stayed off social media.

Robert Ryan: His 2009 guilty plea was to a felony, and also involved domestic violence. So, under those circumstances, his right to own a firearm could never be restored in California.

Courtney Friel: Well, Brown admitted himself that all of this attention is only giving him more publicity for his upcoming album. Reporting live in Tarzana, I’m Courtney Friel, KTLA 5 News.

A Tale of Two Auto Accidents, or Why You Should Call a Personal Injury Attorney (VIDEO)

VOICEOVER: Here’s a story about two people who each got into a car accident. Not with each other.

DAVE was in a collision out on the 138.

His car was in bad shape, and so was he.

He had whiplash from the accident, although at the time he didn’t know it, and his car had $8,000 of damage.

Dave didn’t call Kuzyk Law.

Instead, Dave spent 5 weeks trying to get the insurance company to pay for his car repairs, and then finally got approval and had to wait 3 more weeks for the repairs to be finished.

All that time, he did not have a car and had to beg for rides or take the bus, because Dave didn’t get a rental car because the insurance company said they wouldn’t cover it.

He didn’t see a doctor because he didn’t want to deal with medical bills and figured his pain would go away by itself.

In the end, he was forced to go see a doctor anyway because the pain in his neck was too severe and was not improving, and he was missing more and more work. But the insurance company refused to pay for the doctor, because they claimed since Dave waited, it must have been caused by something other than the accident.

By this time he’d already agreed to the tiny payout from the insurance company to cover the minimal car repairs they finally agreed to pay, and he was out of luck. The repairs covered the visible damage, but not the internal damage, and Dave had problems with that car from then on.

Hesitating to get help after his car accident wound up costing Dave a lot of money. Don’t be like Dave.

JEFF, on the other hand, called Kuzyk Law right away after he got in an accident.

His attorney advised him to see a doctor, which he did, and because he was working with Kuzyk Law, the doctors did not make him pay anything at all up front, and Kuzyk Law got his medical bills covered, and he was compensated for his pain and suffering.

So was his car — which, by the way, was fully repaired and paid for in a matter of days — and he also got a rental car paid for by the insurance company. He did not have to take a bus while waiting for car repairs.

He missed a few days of work while he was recovering, and Kuzyk Law got him reimbursed for that lost income.

Be like Jeff. If you’ve been in a car accident, call Kuzyk Law right away. Our team of personal injury lawyers knows exactly what to do to get you the full amount you are owed, and you pay us nothing until we win!

Call now for a free case evaluation: (661) 945-6969.

Audio Transcripts

Ralphie Tonight (Interview)

Ralphie: So obviously the story that we’ve been following since Sunday night here on Ralphie Tonight is Taylor Swift, Kanye West, the whole debacle over whether she gave him permission to say some of the things he said in one of his songs, Famous. Taylor’s saying that Kanye never called for approval. Kanye’s saying, he did and then Kim Kardashian, Sunday night releasing on her Snapchat, video footage of Kanye speaking with Taylor who was on speakerphone seemingly giving her approval for at least some of the lines in that song, Famous. But now, with the way state laws are in California, Taylor Swift might have legal recourse. We figured instead of speculating about it, we would speak with an attorney out in California here on RalphieTonight to find out more. Attorney Reid Breitman of Kuzyk Law in California joins us now here on RalphieTonight. Kim posting this video footage that was taken of Kanye speaking with Taylor. Let’s start first with what the California state laws says about the recording of a conversation. Can only one party be allowed to record if the other party doesn’t know about it or do all parties involved have to know about the recording of a phone conversation?

Reid Breitman: The California Wiretap law requires all parties to a conversation to consent to a recording. California’s Invasion of Privacy Act says that it’s actually a crime to record or eavesdrop on any confidential communication, such as a telephone call, without the consent of all the parties of the conversation, and if Taylor had to be talking on a cell phone, any communication on a cell phone, whether it’s confidential or not, is protected under that statue.

Ralphie: So now I guess the question becomes, because TMZ has kind of raised this point of Taylor may have known there were other people in the room listening and she may have even known that there was a recording going on. Let’s just say, let’s just say, for for all intensive purposes, that she knew other people were in the room and she knew she was on speaker, but she did not know of the particular recording. Does it make the release of that recording illegal?

Reid Breitman: Well, that’s an interesting question. If she knew that other people could hear it, that would make it so that it’s not a confidential communication. But, again, if she was on a cell phone, it doesn’t matter. The issue would be, did she give implied consent to recording that conversation. And, I don’t think so. I think under those facts and circumstances it would probably be hard to get a criminal conviction, but certainly, I think that both Kanye and Kim would be liable civilly to Taylor Swift if she decided to press something like that.

Ralphie: From what Kanye says it was an hour long conversation. We’ve only seen excerpts of that conversation via Kim’s Snapchat. But let’s just say that she did not in fact give implied consent to the recording. If you’re advising Taylor Swift, Reid, what are you telling her?

Reid Breitman: I would love to represent Taylor Swift. I would do it for free because I don’t like Kanye. He actually lived in the neighborhood I grew up in and he’s a pain in the butt. But if I were advising Taylor Swift, if it’s worth her time, then she could definitely bring the civil suit, it would be relatively easy and she’d be entitled to the greater of $5,000 or three times actual damages, and she can get an injunction prohibiting the release of any part of that recording.

Ralphie: You’ve brought up a couple of interesting points that I haven’t heard yet. So obviously the fact is if she was on a cell phone or not, that obviously plays a role. And then the implied consent, or course, would play a role, or lack thereof. And then of course again, you’re saying criminally, it’s going to be tough to get that prosecution, but a civil case she could probably win damages, if those different things played in her favor.

Reid Breitman: Exactly.

Ralphie: Regardless of if she pursues legal recourse or not, far from the end of this story, that’s for sure. California Attorney Reid Breitman of Kuzyk Law in California. Hey, Reid, thanks so much for the time and, I appreciate you calling in.

Reid Breitman: I appreciate it. Thanks so much.

On the Brink (Interview)

Erin Brinker: Welcome back. I’m Erin Brinker.

Tobin Brinker: And I’m Tobin Brinker.

Erin Brinker: And we’re on the Brink, the morning show on KCAA AM 1050 and FM 106.5. We are joined now by Attorney Mark Leonardo. He has successful litigated and tried cases in front of judges, juries, and arbitrators in the areas of employment, real estate, business, and personal injury. He now works side by side with Robert Ryan and other lawyers at Kuzyk Law exclusively representing victims of auto and motorcycle accidents, slip and fall, dog bites, and other incidents leading to personal injury. And the topic today is, you know, when people sue cities, and Tobin was a city councilman here in the city of San Bernardino, and the city of San Bernardino gets sued all the time, especially when it comes to the things that go on with the police department here in this great city. And so we welcome to the show, Mark Leonardo. Mark, how are you?

Mark Leonardo: Very good, thank you. Good morning.

Erin Brinker: It’s great to have you on. So, yeah, we keep hearing about the big news stories of right now are these police shootings and excessive use of force, etcetera. Families almost always sue. So tell us about what that process is like.

Mark Leonardo: Yeah, it’s becoming an epidemic across the country. What happens when you do have a shooting like this, the first thing the family does, when they hire a lawyer, is file what’s called a tort claim, and a tort claim is a procedure which you have to file within the first six months from when the incident occurs and it’s making a written claim against the county or city, whichever the case may be. 99 times out of a hundred, the city or county, they always deny that claim. Then once you have that take place, that’s kind of your permission ticket to go to court. And then they can go file their lawsuit in court. That’s kind of the procedural aspect of how that works.

Erin Brinker: So, you know, and a lot of these cases, the person who ends up suing is usually up to no good, out there doing a drug deal at two o’clock in the morning. And, he reaches in his pocket to get a cell phone and a cop shoots him or something like that, and I’m just making this up off the top of my head. Is there any recourse for a city, if the family sues and it was obviously the bad guys fault, or you know, how does that process work?

Mark Leonardo: Well, the city tries to, or the police department. Usually, it’s the city, is the defendant that’s sued, because the police officers work for the city. So, they try to defend themselves and come up with the reason of the why they were justified in using excessive force.

Erin Brinker: So I know that there’s, one of the examples here, there was a family man that was fatally shot by police. He filed a federal lawsuit against the city. Can you talk about that case?

Mark Leonardo: Yeah, there’s a case that was just filed recently and the district court in Los Angeles, and was brought against the Long Beach police department and the city of Long Beach. What happened there was the individual guy, by the name of Mharloun Saycon, is thirty-nine years old, and he had a mental disability and he was at an arcade/casino out there in Long Beach and he had a pocket knife. And he was carving into a table or something, and the management told him, “Hey you can’t do that, put the pocket knife away.” And he did. Later on, he frequented this casino quite often apparently, and he was showing a couple of his friends this knife, he was kind of proud of this little pocket knife he came across. And he wasn’t threatening anybody, nobody was afraid of it, but a couple of customers that didn’t know him reported him to management and then management came and asked him to put it away and he did. And they tried to get him to leave, but he didn’t leave. He sat in the chair and was watching TV. So the management called the police and under the label of 51/50, do you know what that means? It’s someone who needs to be put in the hospital for what’s going on and keep him locked up for awhile. And so the police were made aware, apparently, that it was a 51/50 call. And they came in, brandishing their guns, pointing at him, and he’s sitting in this chair just watching TV. And the knife is sitting on his lap, allegedly, not even open, and they could see that. And they asked him to put the knife down, and he didn’t respond because he was off watching TV or whatever he was doing, and then because he didn’t put the knife down, they tased him. And then, that didn’t do anything, so they came up and started beating him in the head with a baton.

Erin Brinker: Oh my gosh.

Mark Leonardo: And then, inexplicably, one of the officers began shooting at him 8 times, unloaded his entire pistol, shot him 8 times, and he was dead. So in less than two minutes of their arrival, Mr. Saycon was killed. And there was no aggressive threats, there was no threats to anybody, no provocation, there was nothing in this case, if you believe what the police have to say. That’s kind of what happened in this case.

Erin Brinker: Gobsmacked.

Tobin Brinker: Now, is this one of those where they have camera footage, because if he’s inside of a casino they usually have lots of cameras and stuff. Do they have that kind of evidence?

Mark Leonardo: The platiffs attorney’s, by the way you have, the attorney is a guy name of Dan Stormer. He’s a very well renowned civil rights lawyer. So they have a big time lawyer on this case. They say that they have some of the video footage. I don’t think they have anything direct . They’ve seen some of the footage and they have talked to many of the witnesses that have corroborated what I just told you, that there was no aggression by this guy at all, he was just sitting in a chair the entire time. He never got out of the chair.

Erin Brinker: I’m gobsmacked. I imagine there were a lots of witnesses to this case, and what did the witnesses say?

Mark Leonardo: Witnesses have corroborated this same story that I just told you.

Tobin Brinker: So what’s changed in the environment today is that so many people have cell phones and cell phone cameras. You know I think this stuff always happened in the past, too, but people just didn’t know about it or didn’t see it. But with social media and these videos now, people see what’s going on and there’s you know, because we always hear in the newspaper or on the news, that a police officer saying “I feared for my safety, I feared for life,” and then you watch the video, and it’s just like you said, the guy is just sitting there in the chair, a reasonable person is going to say “What were you afraid of?”

Mark Leonardo: Exactly, exactly. I think the Long Beach would have a tough time with this case if the witnesses corroborate what I just told you.

Tobin Brinker: Wow.

Erin Brinker: Wow. So a lot of these cases that we’ve seen nationwide, the ones that have gotten the most press, you know in Ferguson and in Baltimore and in many of these other places, the officers end up being acquitted. And can the families then, in most jurisdictions, I know everyone is different, go back and sue for wrongful death even if the officers involved were acquitted?

Mark Leonardo: Well if you go back to the basic case everyone knows, the OJ case, of course, they can do that. If he was acquitted and he was sued in civil court, he pays a very big judgment.

Erin Brinker: He never paid that, by the way.

Mark Leonardo: That’s what happened. A lot of these cases have been finding judgments and favors of the families.

Tobin Brinker: So I have a question for you. I heard that in California that we have the, what is it, the police officers bill of rights and that it’s very hard to get information about these officers. What if there’s an officer who’s been sued numerous times and lost these lawsuits and is costing cities millions of dollars but they’re still on the streets? Do you know all that, or is that hard information to get?

Mark Leonardo: Well to find out if someone has been sued is pretty easy because it’s a public record.

Tobin Brinker: Ok.

Mark Leonardo: So there are databases out there where you can find out who has been sued. But the bill of rights, you’re right, it makes it very difficult where you cannot obtain any of the police officers personnel records with respect to discipline. So, like in this case, you have someone who shot this guy. If you want to get that guys records, you just can’t. It’s not going to happen.

Tobin Brinker: So if he’s been disciplined for discharging his gun before or making bad judgments you would have no way of knowing that?

Mark Leonardo: Well you may know about the incident somehow, someway, but you wouldn’t be able to get the records from the police as to what they did internally, their investigations, and what discipline was imposed upon him.

Tobin Brinker: Gotcha.

Erin Brinker: Sorry.

Mark Leonardo: That makes it very very difficult sometimes when you’re trying to get this information and, during the lawsuit, the largest stage of any lawsuit is called the discovery stage, and that’s where each side tries to discover information that the other side has, all the records, the documents, you ask all the questions of how things happened. So during the discovery process, you want to try to get those records that the police officer has been developing, because of the bill of rights has been almost impossible in these kinds of cases.

Tobin Brinker: And that’s just California, correct? That’s not nationwide?

Mark Leonardo: It is a California law, yes.

Tobin Brinker: Ok.

Erin Brinker: So, I’m not an attorney, I’ve never gone to law school, I’ve watched a lot of television though, I’m just kidding. If a family is suing, they can request, you talked about discovery. What can they, if they can’t learn about the officer’s history, they don’t know if he’s trigger happy, for example, what other discovery can they get that could prove a case, that could help prove a case?

Mark Leonardo: Well to try to prove a case, still, they’ll take down the positions of the various witnesses that were there in the casino and what they saw. If any of those people had cell phone video footage, they’ll subpoena those records and bring that into evidence. Eventually, they’ll take the deposition of the officers. There were two officers, one that tased him and hit him in the head with a baton, and the other one that shot him. We’ll be able to take the depositions of those two individuals. And a deposition, for those who don’t know, is a procedure—it’s just like testifying in court but it happens in some lawyers office. And the other side gets to ask the questions, what happened, under penalty of perjury, under oath.

Erin Brinker: So is there ever a circumstance where it is ok to hit a suspect in the head with a baton?

Mark Leonardo: That’s a tough question, but you know it’s the whole self defense issue whether you can escalate the fight, so to speak. It’s like, have you heard the phrase “coming to gun fight with a knife” kind of thing. Well if two people are just having a fist fight and pulls out a knife or a baseball bat or a gun, they’d escalated it. And you can’t necessarily do that unless it’s justified. And obviously the case which I described to you certainly would have been justified under the facts that I relayed to you.

Erin Brinker: This reminds me of the Kelly Thomas case in Fullerton where, he was just a homeless man and they beat him to death. And by all accounts of the witnesses he was crying for his life and they wouldn’t stop.

Mark Leonardo: Right. It does sound very similar.

Erin Brinker: Wow. So we are about out of time. Let people know how they can find you, follow you, are you on social media, etc?

Mark Leonardo: They can look at our website which is kuzyklaw.com and Kuzyk has unusual spelling. K-U-Z-Y-Klaw.com. And that’s where I can be found.

Erin Brinker: Well, Mark Leonardo, thank you so much for joining us today and very engaging subject matter and it was terrific having you on.

Mark Leonardo: Thank you for having me.

Ed Tyll Interview with Robert Ryan on the Wrongful Death Case Against Fiat-Chrysler

ED TYLL
The Ed Tyll show, Starcom Radio Network. Robert Ryan is a Los Angeles attorney. Has built a successful practice as a litigator. After rising to membership in a Beverly Hills-based complex litigation boutique firm, Robert made the life-altering decision 15 years ago to refocus his practice representing only individuals injured or killed in accidents. He heads the litigation department at California-based Kuzyk Law, the largest law firm in northern Los Angeles. AM/FM stations all across America. I’m sure everybody was taken aback by the loss of the young actor Anton Yelchin. Lost his life in a freak car accident in Studio City, a place where I used to live. They are now suing the makers of the Jeep Grand Cherokee. Robert, a pleasure to have you on the show—how are you today?

ROBERT RYAN
I’m good, Ed, thanks for having me on. It’s a real pleasure.

ED TYLL
You know I was telling the audience a little bit about you. You really made a big decision in your legal career to go and take cases of people injured or killed in accidents. Tell us a little bit about why that decision. Sure.

ROBERT RYAN
Well you know I had had a very successful career in litigation and lawsuits put on behalf of people fighting over money for businesses and they weren’t real people involved and they weren’t real stakes were ordinary human beings. And so I made that decision about 15 years ago that I wanted to try to turn my talents and the legal system for helping people ordinary people like most of your listeners I imagine who are injured as a result of the negligence of another person or corporations.

ED TYLL
When we see an actor like this you know somebody the public is just getting to know lose their life. That is especially troubling to people. Could you summarize what’s wrong with the Jeep and how Jeep got him killed.

ROBERT RYAN
Sure. But in this situation this vehicle has something of a technical term is called a monostable electric shift. Yes. What the heck is that, people are saying, and it’s a good question. Basically it’s a gearshift that doesn’t change position in the event that the gas is actually changed by the operator of the vehicle. Now think back when we first went on a drive and automatic transmissions were on the column and the driver had to pull a lever towards the driver in all the way to the left to signify it all the way down to his right to signify try to remember that did do that you know I just like everybody driving should know how to work the gearshift.

ED TYLL
Right. I mean what do you what are you doing driving around if you don’t know how to work it. Did this did this guy say. I don’t know how to drive the car. Well let’s think about it. Was he actually I mean was there any evidence of that. I’m just curious was there to this guy right but was there any evidence was there any evidence that he was having difficulty prior to his fatal accident.

ROBERT RYAN
Well the thing is is that the gear shift doesn’t work the way most people are expected to work. You push it and you click it and then it springs back into the neutral position. So the gear shift by appearance always looks the same but if the vehicle is in park with drive or more importantly whether it’s in neutral right now this is because gearshift don’t do what they used to do. Like most devices in our lives now they can take vehicles have been taken over by computers so people don’t actually mechanically change the gears with the gear shift lever anymore. Right. Actually what it does is it sends an electronic signal to a control module in the transmission that changes the gear electronically. Right but we still have to think that causes people to think about it in old terms where they had to shovel the stick forward to the dashboard to know it was in park and pulled the stick back towards them to know it was in drive right. So under those circumstances the driver had three ways of knowing that he had actually changed careers. He could feel it right. He could look at it and see that this thing could move. And plus he could hear it because there was that clicking and sliding that told him that he had successfully cased years to get the gear shift selector on this Grand Cherokee manufactured by fiat. Chrysler doesn’t have any of those seats.

ED TYLL
Tell the Dr that I don’t I don’t see I don’t see a problem with that. I guess that’s a part that yeah alleged in this that if Chrysler is responsible for causing his death.

ROBERT RYAN
Right when the vehicle rolls down a steep steep driveway and pinned him up against a pillar that at one end of his security.

ED TYLL
Right. But I’m not sure why that’s a problem. In other words you buy a car. You learn how to operate it. If you notice all of these differences from your grandfather’s Chevrolet you say to yourself Wow I have to be really careful or I bought the wrong car but I’m not sure how. Yeah let’s see how we get to that division.

ROBERT RYAN
OK. Federal Department of Transportation called the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and they are the ones responsible for making sure that vehicles are safe. Right. And they have something called the office of defects investigation and car manufacturers are required to report to them complaints that they have from vehicle owners. And also there’s a system where vehicle owners can lodge complaints on line from their web site. Well in August of 2015 this office opened an investigation because they had received dozens of reports of accidents caused by unintentional rules or ways of these vehicles that the operators thought had been put in park but were absolutely left in neutral. And these have caused over 30 injuries. And here’s where it gets very interesting from the crisis perspective. In February of 2005.

ED TYLL
Can I ask you a question. Can I ask you a question before we go any further. Sure. OK. How many of these vehicles were on the road versus the 30 problems.

ROBERT RYAN
OK. That’s a good question. There’s a ton of these vehicles on the road. There’s actually eight hundred and ninety seven thousand vehicles with this transmission. Wow. On the road in the United States. Wow.

ED TYLL
OK I need to consider this to be such a problem that they ordered the Chrysler to recall all those vehicles to fix this problem because of the volume of complaints resulting in injuries and damages that had occurred prior to in times of deaths. And what happens with how many people turned up for the recall. Did he respond to his recall.

ROBERT RYAN
Well see that’s a that’s a problem. I just talked about almost 900000 vehicles subject to this recall. So that’s a tall order. The recall happens in April. They sent out a letter in May advising all 900000 approximately vehicle owners of the problem and telling them that a fix is on the way but they don’t have that fixed. The following month in June and letters because think about it first of all the manufacturer has to notify all these people and then they have to figure out what they’re going to do to fix it. Then they have to create a device in the capacity to actually alter the vehicles that is subject to the recall. Chrysler hadn’t figured that out until June of this year. And ironically in Don Yelchin got his notice a week after he died in this accident.

ED TYLL
And why does this make the company responsible. It just doesn’t seem like he did anything to him. No one is perfect he can’t make a perfect product. You got nine hundred plus thousand of them out there. So certainly ninety nine point nine percent of people are not having a problem.

ROBERT RYAN
Well why isn’t there responsibility. It’s interesting because the allegation in the lawsuit is that if something is to resign in such a way that it makes an unreasonable risk of harm if you use it in the way it’s intended. Under California law that could give rise to a claim for damages if a person is injured as a result.

ED TYLL
And so what is it I guess that was my original question. Is it reasonable. With 30 problems out of eight hundred thousand. To blame them. That’s that’s what’s hitting my ears as extremely unreasonable. I’d like to understand it better. But you know what I mean eight hundred thousand items 30 problems. That’s close to perfect.

ROBERT RYAN
Well it’s actually 30 injuries but over 120 accidents.

ED TYLL
Right. But more importantly the math on that. But what is the math. See that’s what I’m saying.

ROBERT RYAN
Like is it reasonable for a hundred and twenty out of eight hundred and fifty seven thousand. Whereas with us it was reasonable enough not to change the design for the 2016 model year.

ED TYLL
Everybody wants to do better. Right.

ROBERT RYAN
Everybody wants to show the shift there all going into the dashboard to know that the vehicle was in park right.

ED TYLL
But I mean everybody wants to do better. You don’t want to punish the company for refining a problem and dealing with it. I’m just not sure why. You know obviously I feel horrible for the guys loss in his family but I don’t see. I mean it really it’s not clear to me how they have to be perfect in order to keep him alive that seems to be the argument you guys weren’t perfect enough.

ROBERT RYAN
Well I don’t think it’s that they weren’t perfect enough. It’s that Fiat Chrysler had notice of this problem and actually press disclosure of this until the outcry became sufficient until it was compelled to do something by federal regulators. And I think that’s really the gist of the argument being made in the lawsuit. Now keep in mind there’s an allegation in this lawsuit by Tom’s parents Victor in an arena Yelchin that not only seek compensation for the loss of their son and also for what’s called punitive damages punitive damages designed to compensate them for Anton’s death. They’re designed to punish Chrysler for what is called willful or wanton conduct. Because under California law if somebody knows of an unreasonable risk and then intentionally conceals that risk from consumers and they are harmed as a result. Right. They can get damages awarded them designed for Pony if instead of compensate.

ED TYLL
Right. Right. So what happens with stablish that this is an unreasonable risk. What is the one of the elements. What are the elements to prove that in court.

ROBERT RYAN
Well there’s two significant things. I think that Chrysler has to really worry about. The first thing is that in 2015 Fiat Chrysler was subject to what was then a record fine of 105 million dollars and was compelled to buy back potentially 190 3000 vehicles in the United States as a result of what foot dragging on vehicle recall would do to defects like this one. The other thing is is that the day after the Yeltsin’s file there was a class action lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court on behalf of the entire class of all 900000 owners of vehicles with this type of transmission. So regardless of how the Galchen lawsuit turns out Chrysler I think has some real real problems as a result of its past what was called misconduct by Nitsa in honoring its vehicle vehicle obligations and also was a class action from the entire Plassans. Chrysler is typical with this type of transmission.

ED TYLL
So from what you’re saying what should Fiat Chrysler have done gone to his house and said Dude you need to know not to drive. I don’t know what the. It sounds like it’s got a big pocketbook. We’re going to whack that pocket book because we’re angry about our son. That’s the wrong reason for a lawsuit. It shouldn’t be an emotional outburst. And on top of this we want to punish them. Is there any evidence of wrongdoing here or intent.

ROBERT RYAN
Well the allegation that they knew this is really is 2012 but there’s no evidence in support of that allegation at this juncture. So one of the interesting things will to see as this lawsuit develops is whether any evidence is disclosed that indicates that the girl was aware of this as long ago as back then. But let me talk about what it’s to want them to do. Right. The existing vehicles did have safety features designed to address this. What happened was there was an audible ding ding sound when somebody tried to get out of the vehicle if the engine was running and it was not parked. And there’s also a warning that flashed on the dashboard. Now the determined that those were in adequate because if somebody just looked at the center stalk the shifter was that stayed in the same position no matter what. What do a vehicle was in and also that didn’t address people who intentionally exit their vehicles knowing they were left running. So the fact that Chrysler has come up with this is twofold. There’s a warning lights and buzzers when the vehicle is not in park and the engine is running and the front door opens and another fix. And this is what the engines are contending should have happened in this particular case in this lawsuit which is interlock device that will put the car manically in park. If somebody opens the door while the vehicle is stationary and it remains in neutral like I say that’s a fake. If they say see Chrysler knew about all along. And then if it had been implemented in this vehicle like it should have then they contend it would still be alive.

ED TYLL
I understand now. Did the vehicle indicate park correctly. If you did not have it then park the vehicle tell you it’s in park.

ROBERT RYAN
Well that’s very true. That a very good point that for the Los Angeles Police Department investigators looked into this to determine that when they went to the scene of this incident they found on track between the vehicle and this killer the vehicle at that time was running and was in neutral. OK. So that was at the end of a rabbies driveway. So the supposition was that this was one of the classic rollaway cases where Mr. Yeltsin thought that the vehicle was in park and he got out to retrieve something from his house or somewhere else and before he could get back in the vehicle and began to roll and trap him in this fashion.

ED TYLL
Right. I mean my question was is part of what’s wrong with the gear shifter that is mis identified as to the driver who looks down in season and it tells the driver the wrong thing or did it say to him that day it’s a neutral. But he just did it. Look that sounds like assumption of risk. That sounds like you’re part. You know I mean you got to do your part. It may not be the shifter in the world but if that thing says it’s a neutral and you don’t bother to look then any damage you do would if you were to kill the kid across the street. He could have killed an old lady not himself. Right.

ROBERT RYAN
Well the way you tell if it’s in park is once you do this little shift and the shift pops back into its neutral position a little pea illuminates a lever.

ED TYLL
Right. Like in other words when you see if it’s in drive a little illuminates that’s right on and so forth that’s right. Right. Right.

ROBERT RYAN
Right and that’s and that’s what they’re contending is not sufficient to tell the driver that the vehicle he didn’t succeed in putting it in park. Not so the other issue which you raised is something else that they found in conclusive evidence of which is that the vehicle some people complained was showing off. But in fact it was in neutral and still subject to roll away. So you’re saying the investigators conclusions that the vehicle was in neutral and they found it indicates that that second scenario can probably be ruled out. Right that Yelchin got out of the vehicle when it was in neutral mistakenly thinking it was in park and then it rolled away. So when we use the word defects we normally thinking of buying a toaster and the toast doesn’t pop up that’s defective when you see an illuminated D for drive illuminated for park. That doesn’t sound like a defect. It sounds like we wish it were easier to see but if only a handful 120 total have made this mistake out of hundreds of thousands. That really argues to the negligence of the driver. I think to the ordinary person I know linguistically there might still be a way to get a theater Chrysler’s pocketbook. But I mean ordinary people go you know let’s go easy here because not everybody is you know what’s the word. Not everybody is smart enough to do the things we need them to do in life and they’re not that bright and not paying that much attention. We don’t want to keep saying to the manufacturer you got to do this for the dumbest idiot that we have. We want you to make your cars for careless people. We want to make our cars or people who park on hills and don’t even look if they’re in park. You see where I’m going with this right. I mean this is how the public feels about lawsuits too many as well. And the lawsuit is always a huge pile of money which doesn’t bring him back.

ED TYLL
You know I’m just saying all of my listeners a lot of responsibly make sure that it doesn’t happen to innocent people in the future you need to think of the sort of preventive measure of claims like this regardless of their outcome. And it’s a good point. There’s two types of defects. One type of defect is that it doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do. Is it because it’s made wrong right and wrong or it’s built wrong. Right. But the fact that these Lancaster relates alleging cause parents book tour Victor and their meanings is different. It’s that the whole system is what they call the counter intuitive meaning it doesn’t correspond to ordinary ordinary forms of human perception that have been built up over years and years of automotive experience. And what you’ve had you say has to address the lowest common denominator. So if you have something kind of sophisticated in some kind of weird way you’ve got to kind of move it a pox back that something illuminates but it doesn’t give you t
he the feel and the look in the sound of an actual change. You can create real problems. And the allegation in this lawsuit and the allegation that was upheld by now is and that’s what’s called a design defect which is the whole planning and organization of the system. It’s a risk that the vehicle could pull away because people innocently thought they could put it in park but they had to.

ED TYLL
You know it is a problem for sure. But I’m I’m still you know it’s just tough to understand how somebody doesn’t see that their vehicle is in park and gets out. Now what is the amount of money that if they lost both punitive and the first type of damage compensatory. What’s the total of damages being sought here against Fiat-Chrysler?

ROBERT RYAN
Well in California’s state courts in claims of this type the the the claimants in this case the parents are not allowed to actually allege a dollar amount but I imagine that these parents especially considering the fact that they may have been forecasted to receive economic support from a young actor who had a very promising career could allege compensatory damages in the millions and then punitive damages how many millions more are based on the allegation that Chrysler knew about this in sufficient time to fix it before it die.

ED TYLL
Unbelievable huh. I mean it’s so sad that he’s gone. But you know we we we really are in a society that pays less and less attention and getting out of a car that tells you what’s in neutral really sounds like it should be the driver’s fault.

ROBERT RYAN
I mean it doesn’t you know I would pay less and less attention.

ED TYLL
My question in this lawsuit and the question a lot of lawsuits probably to come will be where the manufacturers have to address the fact that people are paying less and less attention whether Hey people need to be forced to pay more attention and thus protect themselves.

ROBERT RYAN
Indeed. You know when I was in law school they always brought up at the end of the case analysis. Now let’s discuss the public policy what good public policy do you think would come out of success in this case. Well I think it’s already achieved a lot which is that it has advertised and spread the news of this problem to all of those 900000 other vehicle owners that might not have been aware of it. And so those people now can go and get their fix that Chrysler will pay for or certainly can be more careful and more attentive to the possibility that this problem may be occurring with these vehicles. And that’s number one right. Number two is that all manufacturers as we develop this new technology that takes people away from how they’re used to operating these traditional devices need to keep in mind that people’s mentality needs it hasn’t changed as fast as the devices had changed and they need to build that in almost dumbed down their products so that they can see how people have traditionally thought about them even if those traditional puppets no longer apply to the new technology that are in all of these devices that surround us.

ED TYLL
Wow. Wow. Very important point. A case like this. This amount of money. High profile plaintiffs high profile defendants more likely to settle out or really go to a jury.

ROBERT RYAN
What are the odds that an x. That’s an excellent question and an excellent question and the answer is we don’t know at this point do we. On the one on the one hand it’s very prominent. It means I’m talking to you about it. Everybody is talking about this whole case because of the situation of the young man who tragically lost his life. And the fact that he was in the public. Right. So on the one hand Chrysler knows that everybody is watching what it does in this lawsuit and so on the one hand it might be inclined to try to settle it quickly and quietly if that’s even possible. But they would certainly pay a premium for that. I would take on the other hand because it is complete and because of the pendency of that class action lawsuit on behalf of a hundred ninety nine thousand other vehicle owners may be inclined to try to duke it out and to fight long and hard because they have so much more at stake with all of the other owners of these vehicles.

ED TYLL
Now with this automatically being a jury trial or this could wind up being a non jury trial is it is it automatic.

ROBERT RYAN
In this particular situation the case for this case has been filed by Victor in a really old Cheena on behalf of up the to anticipate that’s going to be a jury trial because under California law a wrongful death lawsuit of this type. You have a right to a jury. Got it and I have to think that the Chrysler would be very concerned about a jury ever getting its hands on this case especially given its past somewhat negative track record with respect to vehicle recalls. And what the federal government has already determined was what they considered to be the defective nature of this design.

ED TYLL
Indeed. So have you been in cases like this before with a company like DaimlerChrysler or Chrysler which is actually Chrysler they Daimler-Chrysler sold it to you right.

ROBERT RYAN
Yes. And let me tell you there is nothing about these cases. They’re very very intensive because as you say all of the points you made concerning the consumer have an obligation to figure out how this works and work it accordingly. Right. If used in its intended manner Francos is no threat right. And so they have a whole bunch of experts who come and testify that this is well within the standard of care and that there was no defect in this design. And if it was used as it intended it was perfectly 100 percent fail safe. Right. And they have these experts and will be qualified and they have you know a long list of degrees and all of these qualifications and they seem very authoritative on the part of the company side concerning the company’s position that this is not effective. On the other hand you have a young man who lost his life in this very tragic way and people don’t expect that to happen.

ED TYLL
When you’re operating a new vehicle when you got that right. Let me ask Andy do it. I’ve kind of know the answer to this. What what’s the difference between having a case with all of this big name attention and then having a case where a Jane Doe slips and falls on a street maybe in Beverly Hills even and no one knows who the plaintiff is. No one knows who the defendant is. Do you get a cleaner legal process without all of the attention and the big names. Or are you able to make it virtually the same because the law is the law and all of this extra attention really doesn’t bear on the finding which sounds. What.

ROBERT RYAN
Well I think I think you already know the answer to that. I mean we live in a celebrity driven society don’t we. I mean we wouldn’t even be talking about this particular case because God knows there have been dozens of people who have been injured in similar accidents that we haven’t heard about long before Anton Yelchin that his untimely demise. And so you have to think that the amount of scrutiny that a case this prominent is going to receive in both the legal system and in society has a law at large it’s going to be a two edged sword isn’t it. On the one hand of course that has a lot riding on it because it’s so prominent and it’s so pretty good. On the other hand that’s going to cause Chrysler to bring resources to bear against these plaintiffs against these claimants Victor. And I read that maybe an ordinary less well known claimant would not have to tolerate.

ED TYLL
Right. So what are you what do you figure in your gut the effect of a famous actor is loss and a car company on the other side. What is that effect on a jury. How do you keep them objective and analytical instead of Starstruck on one side and vengeful on the other.

ROBERT RYAN
Well that’s going to be the challenge for Chrysler’s lawyers isn’t it. Because you know history has proven right. The lawsuits of this type that that’s an almost impossible distinction to ask a jury to make. Why do you think this is kind of a law comes by the tragic nature of this very prominent young actor beloved in the eyes of his fans and on the other hand you have this faceless corporation worth billions of dollars that at least the allegations are new about this problem. He could have instituted an easy fix that would have prevented this young man.

ED TYLL
Right. Robert why do you like this kind of law. The law is so varied. There are all kinds of specialties today. This is an old tried and true legal representation you know an accident a wrongful death. What’s your passion for this category of the law.

ROBERT RYAN
Well because it is this is the result of real harm to real people. So much of what the lawyers in the court system do is fussing over documents and hours. Right. But whatever you think of Victor and arenas claim or the merits of the claim you know that in the arena are really hurting. I mean they’ve been wounded in a wonderful life as a result of the death of their son and Tyson and his legal system and all the beauty that regardless of how it turns out it’s going to give them an opportunity and some some measure of closure whether they win or to try to find somebody or hold somebody responsible that they believe is the source of that war. And also to compensate them for having suffered it. And that’s the beauty of our system is that that beauty is going to be represented in this case and that’s how it turns out whether they win or whether they lose. And so since it’s human beings and it’s humanity…how could you not be attracted to that?

ED TYLL
Wow. Beautifully said Robert. Wow I wish I sat next to you in law school I think I would have had a lot of fun looking at your notebook. You’re really really good. Thank you for making time today. I’m sure you get lots of calls on this case. We certainly enjoy your time with us today on Starcom radio network. Thank you.

ROBERT RYAN
Thank you so much. It was a real pleasure.

ED TYLL
You got it. Take care now.

Kate Delaney Interview with Robert Ryan on the Wrongful Death Case Against Fiat-Chrysler

KATE:
Things. It’s interesting I just want to see the Star Trek movie and it’s such a sad sad story. Anton Yelchin who plays checkoff in Star Trek, I believe. Terrible, terrible thing. He was crushed and killed in a freak accident at his home in California. And there’s been a lot of conversation about this now because his parents filed a wrongful death suit and product liability, I should add in there, too, lawsuit against Fiat Chrysler in the Superior Court in Los Angeles. The suit is saying that the gear selector in that 2015 Jeep was defective and poorly designed and manufactured. How do you go about proving that? And I think this is definitely great that they brought up this lawsuit and I wonder how tough it is. Again, to, you know, the burden of proof and going after you know an automaker how long that takes all that kind of stuff. So joining us now from Los Angeles is Robert Ryan. He knows of such things he practices his litigation in these areas and of course in California and focuses his practice now on representing people injured or killed in accidents. Robert thanks so much for spending time with us.

ROBERT RYAN:
Thank you very much for having me, Kate. It’s a real pleasure.

KATE:
So they filed this. Well first of all let’s go back to the the accident when you’re the attorney you got to get every single little detail about what went into that accident don’t you all the accident reports everything that you can piece together to put the crime scene together a crime scene put together the accident scene in the mind of the judge or the jury if it goes that far.

ROBERT RYAN:
That’s right. But unfortunately in this particular situation there are no witnesses to the incident and on death. All we know so far is that upon the night ofJune 18th he was supposed to meet some friends that evening and apparently had gotten into his 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee in order to leave his property at his house in Studio City when he did not appear for that scheduled meeting with his friends, they went over to his house and they found him pinned against a kind of a column that at one end of his security gate with the Jeep pressed against his chest and his back against the column. LAPD investigators came to the scene and they determined that the vehicle was running. And the engine was on and also that the transmission was in neutral. Now it’s important to note that Anton lived in a house that had a rather steep driveway. And so the supposition was that he had started the vehicle, had gotten out to go back into his house to pick up something and then by the time he came back the vehicle had started to roll backward. And somehow he got caught between the vehicle and the post, which led to his death.

KATE:
Wow. So now you have all of that and as you go after the product liability and the wrongful death as an attorney what do what do you have to do here to make this lawsuit viable to win it, in other words.

ROBERT RYAN:
Well, that’s an interesting question. This scenario that I just outlined for you which is to some extent speculative about how this may have happened is entirely consistent with the number of reported prior incidents involving that vehicle in that particular transmission. So let’s step back a little here and talk about what the allegation is concerning the transmission in that model. It’s something called a mano stable shift which is just a fancy name for a gearshift that doesn’t actually move position to indicate that the driver has changed gears. I mean we’re all familiar with the gear shift in the middle of the console there that we click and rack in a slide typically all the way forward for park and all the way towards us to drive. Now those gear shifts were made in that fashion because the driver under those circumstances actually is actually mechanically changing the gear. Now vehicles like so much of the products in our lives now have pretty much been taken over by computers. So the driver typically and especially in this car doesn’t actually mechanically change the gears. Instead that’s done electronically…but you still have this gear shift there that actually doesn’t move. Now, in this particular one–and the allegation is that it doesn’t provide the same type of feedback to the driver to confirm that in fact he successfully put the vehicle in park.

KATE:
So when you take on a lawsuit like this when you’re the one you’re the attorney do you just buckle in and tell the people that this could be a really long a long day in court because I would imagine it takes a long time for this to go through.

ROBERT RYAN:
Well in a case like this you have Fiat Chrysler, which is obviously you know a multinational force. They sell they say sell vehicles and not in over 50 countries. One of the largest automakers in the world and one of the one of the largest corporations in the world. So you can anticipate that you will have a very well-funded and vigorous defense. But from the attorney’s perspective when you think about taking a case like this the first thing you want to know is: has it happened before? And the plaintiffs in this lawsuit in court, Victor and Irena Yelchin, the parents of Anton. Under California law because he was not married and had no children they would be the people entitled to make a claim arising from his death. You look back and you see what is the history concerning this particular transit transmission and other accidents here’s where we have a couple of factors that might play very much in Victor and Irena’s favor and let me talk a little bit about what those are. In August of 2015 there’s a division of the U.S. Department of Transportation called the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA for short. So for short began receiving complaints both over its Web site and from Fiat Chrysler who by law is required to pass along such complaints that people are reporting accidents occurring as a result of this type of transmission not successfully being put into park. And then the vehicle is rolling away and causing damages. And in many cases personal injury. In February of 2016 NHTSA expanded its investigation to include all the Chrysler models sold with this particular type of transmission, which at that time I think exceeded 900,000 vehicles registered in the United States. And NHTSA’s investigation came to the conclusion that the design of this particular gearshift was defective because it did not successfully advise the driver that the car may not have been put into park despite the driver’s intention to do so, because the shifter didn’t actually change physical position to indicate that. The only thing it did was it was a little light on the gear shift selector that lit up with a P that was supposed to tell the driver that it was in a park. Now there were a couple of features that Chrysler built into it to try to alert the driver not to leave the vehicle if the vehicle wasn’t in park. So there’s a bell that get a little ding-ding and there’s a light that flashed on the dashboard. But NHTSA determined that these safety features were enough to protect people who intended to leave their vehicle running but just weren’t aware it was a neutral and not in park. Now that led to a recall by Fiat Chrysler of this exact vehicle with this exact transmission. Unfortunately, a vehicle recall of that magnitude takes some time for automakers to implement, if you think about it. First of all, they have to advise hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of vehicle owners a problem. They have to schedule. Service times for all of those people to get their vehicles modified. But more importantly what they have to do is they have to come up with a way to fix it. Now it took Fiat Chrysler until June of this year to come up with a fix for this particular problem. Unfortunately, that fix came too late for Anton.

KATE:
No kidding. I mean what a just a terrible thing. I mean obviously you decided to focus as I mentioned you know well over a decade ago specifically on accidents etc., and what has been the most gratifying part of of practicing that kind of law.

ROBERT RYAN:
This is a good thing–this particular lawsuit is a good example of it. Whether or not Victor and Irena win their lawsuit against Fiat Chrysler because they say that Chrysler’s defective design in transmission caused this son’s death, regardless of what you think of the merits of that lawsuit. And regardless of how it ultimately turns out whether it’s in their favor or not it really stands for a very important principle that for the most part these practically only in America which is that you can have two individuals here who have a claim obviously means a lot to them because it arises from the death of their son and you can take on one of the largest corporations in the world on relatively equal footing. And whether they win or whether they lose that stands for such an important principle of American justice which is that anybody no matter their position in society if they have a legitimate claim can bring that claim to court and seek justice. And regardless of how it turns out that’s a really important principle that all of us need to keep in mind.

KATE:
Boy, so, so true. I agree with you absolutely. What a pleasure speaking with Robert, we’ll talk to you in the future again Robert Ryan out of Los Angeles talking about this terrible, terrible situation with the Star Trek actor. But the lawsuit that was filed against the car maker after what happened. Thanks Robert.

ROBERT RYAN:
Thank you so much. It has been a real pleasure.

KATE:
Yes. Thank you have a good one.

Auto Accidents on Autopilot: Bill Martinez with Robert Ryan on Tesla Accidents

BILL MARTINEZ:
Robert Ryan is with us right now. He’s a Los Angeles-area attorney Kuzyk law who has built a successful practice litigating in state and federal courts throughout California after rising to membership at a Beverly Hills-based complex litigation boutique. Robert made the life-altering decision 15 years ago to refocus his practice on representing only individuals injured or killed in accidents. Robert, good to have you with us on Bill Martinez Live, how are you?

ROBERT RYAN:
I’m doing good, Bill, thank you so much for having me on.

BILL MARTINEZ:
Good to have you here to talk about Tesla. I gotta say, I love the Tesla cars, such a great car, but we’ve
had some issues with it. Of course we’re here to talk about the autopilot crash that, you know, the owner himself is not going to sue, but the car insurance says, Hey wait a minute, let’s talk about this.

ROBERT RYAN:
Right, well, more bad news for Tesla here. This was an accident in August of this year in Texas when the 44-year old Tesla owner had the autopilot feature engaged on the vehicle and according to him while he was going around a turn the vehicle failed to turn with the road and instead crashed into a guardrail and then kept accelerating multiple times until the vehicle was actually destroyed. Now, the owner of the vehicle just wound up with a bloody nose. However the problems for Tesla might be from his insurance company. Chubb, who paid the total loss of the vehicle–and these vehicles are expensive–they are exploring whether they can make a claim called a subrogation claim against Tesla as a result of the autopilot feature’s role in causing this collision.

BILL MARTINEZ:
Well it would stand to seem, you know, I’m not an attorney–you’re the expert on this–but it would stand to reason that they would have standing on this, wouldn’t they?

ROBERT RYAN:
Well you know like if you get in an accident your car is smashed up your insurance company pays you and your insurance company can pursue whoever they think might be responsible for causing the action.

BILL MARTINEZ:
Exactly.

ROBERT RYAN:
And in this particular situation that’s what job is exploring they want to know whether or not Tesla’s autopilot feature is actually played a role in causing this collision so that they can cover you know the amount they paid the owner of the vehicle up for its destruction.

BILL MARTINEZ:
Well and the insurance companies probably grateful that it’s only the car they had to pay for a little bloody nose minor stuff but thank God it didn’t get more complicated in this of course said this opens up the whole discussion about the whole autopilot technology that is not only in Tesla but in other and other automobiles as well.

ROBERT RYAN:
Well let’s talk a little bit about that technology. We’ve all heard about that horrible crash in Florida back in June of this year where an Ohio man, while driving his Tesla Model S on autopilot mode, crashed into a tractor-trailer the top of the car was sheared off and unfortunately he was killed. Apparently the allegation is that the autopilot feature can’t distinguish between the white side of the tractor-trailer and a cloudy sky. Now what does this really mean when we talk about autopilot. We’ve all been hearing about autonomous vehicles heard about Google Health driving vehicles and we’ve heard about 40 is trying to develop a pilotless vehicle and these cars is intended to be fully autonomous, meaning they’re not even going to have a driver and a matter of fact in a city in China, Shanghai has an entire fleet of fully autonomous vehicles. Tesla has gone a different way though. Although they call that car–they call this feature autopilot–the technical term is traffic aware cruise control and really all it is it’s an enhanced kind of cruise control that will control acceleration and braking of the car while combined with that-that-obstacles telling feature that tells us we’re going back into a car, when we’re parking it all that, we’re going to be pulling too far forward, when we’re in our garages and this is not really a true autopilot feature and Tesla has been subjected to a lot of criticism by the use of the name itself. We’ve all been on a plane and we see in pilot coming back out of the cockpit. He’s drinking or he’s chatting with the students using the restroom and we say, “Oh the plane is on autopilot right” and we have this term with pencil and people are inclined to think that they can turn on all the time autopilot and then sit in the back seat or stare out the window or in the case of the Florida crash that killed that man watching a movie but it’s not really true autopilot and some people and some critics are saying that the name itself is part of the cause of the problem.

BILL MARTINEZ:
So I mean I’m not I see your point to me that seems very reasonable, Robert, that I you know it’s like change the marketing materials. I mean, change the language because we know that words have meaning and if the interpretation is that you know it gives people this sense and a false sense of security that, as you say, they can sit in the backseat watch a movie and wow I mean look what’s happening here and these are just two incidences that we’re talking about.

ROBERT RYAN:
Well we have a couple more incidences, too. We had another case in in Montana in June where it was alleged that a vehicle went off the road and hit a bunch of signposts while the autopilot was engaged, but Tesla is saying that no, the autopilot wasn’t engaged in that particular case. And there was also a later accident in Pennsylvania where the car went off the road and crashed into a tree and the driver was cited for reckless driving, but he’s alleging it was the autopilot feature that actually caused that crash. You know, part of the issue here, Bill, is the whole Tesla mystique. You know we have Elon Musk and we have this advanced technological expertise and we have is cutting-edge technology marketing. We have SpaceX with his rockets and we have Tesla and we his battery plants in Nevada, we have all of this kind of, like, hoopla and hype about how cutting-edge all of this technology is and this may be a situation where the marketing has gotten a little ahead of what the technology actually delivers. And Mr. Musk has come into a lot of criticism for that, because, as you say, it has seemed to create misleading impression in the minds of the consumer as to what this feature is really capable of.

BILL MARTINEZ:
Well Robert, we know that Elon Musk is politically wired. Is this a politically driven situation as well? Because I’ve got to think, you know, something like this, especially when it is cutting edge and you’ve got people dying and getting injured and there’s reports I mean uh it you almost wonder if he’s because of his political connections that he’s not being held into account versus somebody else.

ROBERT RYAN:
Well it would that remains to be seen. You know ironically they were about to announce some significant changes to this autopilot feature when the SpaceX rocket blew up upon launch at the beginning of this month and then that delayed this announcement. So a lot of these issues probably will be taken care of in the market. No, I mean Elon Musk is capable of generating a lot of publicity, a lot of capital, a lot of investment and so it’s very important to his business model that he be seen as being on the leading cutting-edge. But we have these kinds of situations where people are dying and now we have federal regulators getting involved. That Florida crash that killed that man, that Ohio man, is actually being investigated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and they’re going to be taking a hard look at this whole autopilot feature. How it’s marketed and how it functions and that may create some more problems for Mr. Musk in all of his various entities because of the kind of a blow to the overall image that represents.

BILL MARTINEZ:
Well Robert, want to bring in the context here why, because some people say, well, why are we even doing this autopilot. You know driverless cars thing and you know you consider that one over 35,000 people were killed in the U.S. due to auto accidents last year, according to the NHTSA number, the overwhelming majority of vehicle accidents. Ninety-four percent are due to human error so you know the people are saying, well if we minimize human involvement and maybe we can improve on that 35,000 figure.

ROBERT RYAN:
Bill, that’s exactly right and I’m so glad that you came up with that statistic and that figure. It is operator error that results in the vast majority of vehicle crashes in this country and the vast majority of vehicle crashes that resulted death or serious injury. So hence the full movement here to try to utilize the technology that’s available to see if we can eliminate that from the equation. And of course Tesla and his supporters would say that the crash rates and the fatality rates and Tesla vehicles are way below that, applicable to the vehicle population or the driving population as a whole and so that’s why you see Google and you see Ford coming up with this entirely autonomous vehicle and remove the driver from the in quake equation. In its entirety Tesla has done here is kind of a half-step, kind of a hybrid step where it’s kind of perceived as being an autonomous type.

BILL MARTINEZ:
Robert, we’re out of time we gotta leave it right there thank you so much for being with us Robert Ryan on Bill Martinez Live.

Auto Accidents on Autopilot: Peter Solomon with Robert Ryan on Tesla Accidents

PETER SOLOMON
And with the advent of cars that drive themselves lots of interesting and eerie questions are being raised about who holds the bag when something goes wrong. Well, that’s a question we’re going to talk about this morning as we welcome Robert Ryan. Good morning Rob.

ROBERT RYAN
Good morning Peter. How are you today?

PETER SOLOMON
I’m fine. What’s this about a Tesla owner involved in auto crash?

ROBERT RYAN
Well, more bad news for Tesla in August of this year when a 44-year-old Model F operator driving his car with the auto pilot feature engaged hit a guardrail on a rural road in Texas. Going around a curve, a curve that he says he traveled many times before, and because he had the autopilot engaged, he had taken a cloth out of his glove compartment was cleaning his dashboard when the vehicle, instead of following the curve on the road, smashed into the guardrail. And after the initial crash continued to accelerate into the guardrail multiple times until the vehicle was ultimately destroyed.

PETER SOLOMON
Ok — who’s at fault?

ROBERT RYAN
Well, that’s an interesting question. The driver came away with just a bloody nose and he’s not interested in pursuing anything legal as far as the claim goes. However, his insurance company, Chubb, is taking a hard look at this. They compensated the driver for the destruction of his vehicle. And in the law there’s something called subrogation. If your insurance company pays you offer of a loss because you you’ve been in an accident they can go looking for somebody they say is responsible to recover that payment. And that’s what Chubb is doing here. They’ve hired a law firm to look into whether or not Tesla and its auto pilot feature is responsible for this loss. So they can recover some or all of the not insignificant payment they made to compensate the owner of the vehicle for its destruction.

PETER SOLOMON
Now, Tesla does cost a large amount of money doesn’t it when you’re replacing one?

ROBERT RYAN
Well, it costs a lot of money, and you know this is an interesting issue that’s come up in some other situations involving Tesla in the last several months. There was an incident in July of this year in Montana where a vehicle went off the road and hit a number of fence posts. Although, in that case Tesla is arguing that the auto pilot feature was not engaged. There was an incident in Pennsylvania where a vehicle left the road while it was on auto pilot and hit a tree. The driver was cited for reckless driving. And in that case his defense is that the Tesla auto pilot feature that caused the collision. And maybe your listeners, Peter, are familiar with that tragic situation in Florida where an Ohio man driving a Model S with the auto pilot feature engaged. Hit the side of a tractor trailer sheared off the top of his vehicle and was killed. And the allegation there is that was auto pilot feature could not distinguish between the side of the tractor trailer and a cloudy sky. And that and that crash is being investigated by federal regulators at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to see whether this auto pilot feature is maybe causing more problems than it’s worth.

PETER SOLOMON
Now is Tesla the only car that uses autopilot?

ROBERT RYAN
Well, that’s a very interesting question, Peter. The technical term for this for this for this feature is traffic aware cruise control and what that means is that–we’re all familiar with the cruise control and most vehicle that controls braking and acceleration. Typically when we’re on a long drive. And then we also have this feature like back up warning so that when we’re parking the car we don’t hit the car that’s parked behind us or when we’re pulling forward into our garages so we don’t hit the wall. So Tesla has a combination of that that that puts the name auto pilot on it, and that name is causing a lot of problems for it. And Google has many of your listeners may know are investigating something called autonomous cars cars that are not entitled are not intended to have any driver whatsoever fully automated. Right. Tesla, however, has this kind of hybrid situation that does involve a lot of interaction with the driver. What they’re calling it auto pilot and many critics are saying that the name itself has created a misleading impression that the driver can simply disengage autopilot and then take his attention completely away from the operation of the vehicle and test it in the fine print says no not that’s not the case. The driver still does need to be engaged to make sure that if the autopilot function fails he can take over and safely operate the vehicle.

PETER SOLOMON
Well, you talk about in the fine print–in the fine print is awfully itty bitty isn’t it.

ROBERT RYAN
Well this is the this is the issue with Tesla right. They have this kind of image. And Elon Musk the owner of Tesla has promoted this image of being this technologically advanced company. He has a Space X a company that sends rockets satellites into the air on rockets at half the cost of his competitors based on some new technology. He has this Tesla auto pilot feature which some people think are creating this mistaken impression in people’s mind. But part of his business model is this technologically cutting edge developments and critics are saying that in this particular case as with maybe his Space-X problems that he’s had recently his his the hype has gotten a little bit ahead of what the tech now technology can actually deliver.

PETER SOLOMON
So if I understand it right Teslas autopilot is somewhere between cars that we drive in cars that are going to be self-driving at some point.

ROBERT RYAN
That’s exactly right and that’s what people say the problem is you know we’ve all sat on a plane and maybe we’ve seen the pilot come out of the cockpit and get something from the stewardess to eat or to use the restroom and we’re like hey why isn’t the pilot flying the plane and then we think oh it’s on autopilot. So we all have this impression that when we say the words auto pilot it’s automatic and consumer products is the Consumer Product Safety Commission and also consumer reports that consumer research agency has called upon Tesla to think about changing the name so that this mistaken impression is not created and people aren’t confused with fully autonomous vehicles which are being developed by some other manufacturers.

PETER SOLOMON
Well, I also have to wonder, Robert, if Mr. Texas, the guy who owned the car, didn’t want to sue because he knew he was a dodo.

ROBERT RYAN
Well, you know in this particular case Kate fully admits that he was not engaged in operating the vehicle. He said he had reached into his glove compartment and was wiping down the dashboard. But he felt that you know that was OK, because he had driven the vehicle along this road on many prior occasions and that’s another aspect of this as a feature. You know it’s kind of like this real time satellite loaded up dates that the vehicle was constantly getting from other Tesla drivers and also incorporating the car’s own experience into its database. And so he felt that because he had done this on previous occasions there would have been no reason not to assume that the car was able to handle itself. On this occasion of course Tesla says that that’s not what autopilot is intended to do. But the issue is: is that at odds with what Tesla’s own advertising tells consumers?

PETER SOLOMON
So where does it look like this issue is going?

ROBERT RYAN
Well, I think it looks like it’s going that Tesla is going to have to make some changes. And ironically, Tesla was getting ready to make a major announcement concerning changes to this auto pilot feature at the end of August. Unfortunately, the next day one of its Space X rockets blew up when launching a satellite. And that delayed the announcement. The rumor has it though that they will be announcing that change shortly. And what are they going to do is they’re going to require more driver interaction–that the driver’s hand has to be on the wheel when the auto pilot feature is engaged to make sure that the driver knows that this is not the fully autonomous feature that Ford and Google and some of these other manufacturers have been talking about.

PETER SOLOMON
Do you anticipate though that Tesla is going to have to pay up to the insurance company?

ROBERT RYAN
Well, it’s the kind of thing where you know Tesla’s business model and the rest of Elon Musk’s is a business endeavor endeavors–they get a lot of media attention. They’ve got a lot of investor interest and there’s a whole cachet and there’s a whole kind of, you know, mentality associated with all of that. That means a lot of money and a lot of exposure to Elon Musk Tesla and all of his various endeavors. So given these these series of crashes that has happened over the summer it seems to me that Tesla doesn’t want to have a long drawn out battle with some insurance company over this particular incident and maybe we’ll see a quiet settlement where a new vehicle is provided and we can get this out of the headlines from Tesla’s perspective.

PETER SOLOMON
Why did you decide to take on this issue?

ROBERT RYAN
Well, you know here at Kuzyk Law in Southern California were involved in automobile accidents. That’s probably one of our major practice areas, and the whole issue of autonomous vehicles and self-driving cars is very interesting to anybody in the automotive public or in the legal system who works in that particular area. I mean if you think about it, fully 90 percent of the car crashes in this country are generally attributed to driver error and they’ve killed almost 35-36,000 people every year on our nation’s roads. So on the one hand this technology presents a tremendous opportunity to make vehicles driving safer. On the other hand, when you have this kind of situation where maybe marketing gets ahead of the technology you have the you have the opportunity for problems, like happened in Texas and happened in Florida when that man lost his life.

PETER SOLOMON
And you raised an important point, Robert, in that the majority of automobile accidents are caused by dummies driving.

ROBERT RYAN
Well, that’s right. You know, and so if you look at Ford and Google and actually there’s a city in China that has an entire fleet of completely autonomous vehicles where there’s no driver whatsoever. So the thought is is that if we can you just use technology to take the driver and driver air out of the equation, motoring will be safer. Unfortunately, Tesla isn’t quite there yet and may have created confusion in people’s minds that in fact they are when they’re not.

PETER SOLOMON
Alright, I just made you king of the world. What would you do about this issue?

ROBERT RYAN
Well, I think what we need to do first of all is we have to make sure that people aren’t confused by the Tesla auto pilot feature. And I would say that a good first step would be: change the name. Because it’s creating an impression in people’s mind that the technology does not yet match.

PETER SOLOMON
And then what would you do? Anything?

ROBERT RYAN
Well, I think that the wave of the future is the autonomous vehicle. I mean I think we need to have a situation where the Ford and the Google model where we take the driver out of the equation entirely and we adopt our road system so that the vehicles do not require drivers and all of the mistakes they will constantly make will have a safer motoring public.

PETER SOLOMON
And what would you say is the biggest mistake drivers make?

ROBERT RYAN
Well, we know that distracted driving is a major, major problem in this country. You know? With the advent of cell phones and texting and emails and all of these other kinds of things, carmakers are striving to adopt their own technology to try to minimize the distraction that that’s going to pose. We have hands-free cell phone conversation. We have text-to-talk so that people can text while they are speaking rather than looking, fiddling with their phones. However, the vast majority of vehicles do not have those features but the vast majority of the motoring public are using their handheld devices while they are behind the wheel. And that’s an enormous problem in this country and it’s only going to get worse until we have the technology that catches up with human behavior in that regard.

PETER SOLOMON
If we want more information about this issue, what do you want us to do?

ROBERT RYAN
Well, I would like you to–anybody, any of your listeners–to visit our Web site at KuzykLaw.com, that’s k-u-z-y-k-l-a-w.com. You can follow us on Facebook and you can listen to this program, our podcast and other information there that’s available to anybody concerning this and other issues involving the motoring public.

PETER SOLOMON
I’d like to say thank you to my guest Robert Ryan very much.

ROBERT RYAN
Pete, it’s been a pleasure.

PETER SOLOMON
–My pleasure–about this emerging legal and social issue. Cars with auto pilot cars that are self driving and who ends up holding the bag if something goes wrong. And you’ve been listening to another edition of WIPA Sunday here on 94 WIPA SportsRadio. My name’s Peter Solomon.

Distracted Driving (VIDEO)

What is distracted driving?

Distracted driving is exactly what it sounds like – driving while distracted by something other than the road and traffic around you.

One of the deadliest forms of distracted driving is texting while driving.

Every year, there are 1.5 million auto accidents involving smartphone use. There are nine fatal car accidents every single day thanks to texting behind the wheel.

There are three types of distracted driving:

Visual, where you take your eyes off the road and off your surroundings…

Manual, where you take your hands off the wheel to handle something else…

And Cognitive, where your brain shifts concentration onto something other than safe driving.

Texting takes all three.

Did you know it takes an average of 5 seconds to send a text? At fifty-five miles per hour, you would drive the length of an entire football field without looking, steering, or even thinking about driving.

Don’t endanger yourself or those around you. Put down your smartphone and drive safely.

If you or someone you know has been in an accident because of someone else’s distracted driving, give us a call today!