Ralph Doucet, who according to his obituary was a lifelong Harley-Davidson rider and enthusiast, was one of about a dozen motorcyclists participating in the demonstration ride — potential buyers take new models out on short group test rides — accompanied by Cajun Harley-Davidson employees northbound on La. 93 outside Scott when he was struck and killed by Keith Alleman, a motorist who was southbound at the time of the accident. When deposed, Alleman said he too was a motorcycle enthusiast and was distracted by the line of bikes headed his way, causing him to leave the roadway, over-correct and enter the northbound lane where he struck Doucet.
Doucet’s widow and son filed suit against Jerry Jones, owner of Cajun Harley, among others, arguing that Jones didn’t take proper precautions to ensure the cyclists’ safety during the ride, including “failure to obtain a police escort for the demo ride and their failure to require that the demo riders wear safety gear and use headlight modulators.”
District Judge Herman Clause in Lafayette didn’t buy the argument and issued a summary judgement dismissing Jones and his motorcycle shop from the civil suit. The surviving Doucets appealed to the 3rd Circuit, which on Wednesday released an opinion siding with Clause:
Plaintiffs will be unable to satisfy their burden of proving that Jones was negligent in selecting the demo route or in providing appropriate safety measures to demo riders. They failed to offer any evidence that a safe, more appropriate route was available or that the conditions of the roadway chosen were unreasonably dangerous. Moreover, they failed to offer sufficient evidence that any of its suggested safety measures would have prevented Alleman’s distraction.
Although we are extremely sympathetic to the plaintiffs for the tragic loss of their husband and father, we find that they will be unable to meet their burden of proving the essential factors of the duty/risk analysis.