Corpus Christi Police Chief Floyd Simpson would have survived a wreck last year if his motorcycle was equipped with an anti-lock braking system, according to lawyers for Simpson’s family.
Simpson’s widow, Tanya, and three daughters filed a lawsuit against Harley-Davidson Motor Company, the Dallas dealership where Simpson bought his motorcycle and the Texas Department of Transportation.
Simpson, 51, died May 3 on State Highway 361 in Port Aransas after a teenage boy driving a pickup lost focus and crossed the centerline leading to the fatal crash, police have said. Port Aransas police’s investigation concluded that Simpson died immediately of a neck injury, after his helmeted head hit a pickup’s tire.
As of late Monday, none of the defendants had been served with the lawsuit, according to court records.
Law enforcement’s initial investigation indicated Simpson laid his 2007 Harley-Davidson Electra Glide down in an evasive manner but his family’s lawyers said the final report concluded the bike fell after the tires locked. The investigation showed Simpson’s motorcycle skidded straight about 110 feet before the fall, lawyers Joseph Ritch and Josh Hopkins said.
Sales people at Dream Machines of Texas in Dallas didn’t offer Simpson a motorcycle with the anti-lock braking system, though they had other motorcycles for sale with the brakes, the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit includes a 2013 report from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety that found the anti-lock braking systems led to a reduction in the motorcycle fatal crash rate of about 31 percent. It also includes a 2005 news release about Harley-Davidson implementing the anti-lock braking system on police motorcycle models. Harley-Davidson also touted in advertisements the extra safety provided by the systems especially an added control in emergency braking circumstances.
“At this point, to not recall its products that do not have this anti-lock brakes stability enhancement system is a conscious disregard concerning the safety and well being of the individuals that may be using their products,” the lawsuit states.
The anti-lock braking system is not federally mandated in the U.S., the family’s lawyers said.
The highway’s condition also was a contributing factor, according to the lawsuit. The road was so worn it had become slick and was part of the reason Simpson lost control, the lawyers said. They accuse TXDOT officials of knowing the roadway posed safety hazards for more than 10 years after several fatalities and calls for road improvement. Several plans for safety improvements were publicly discussed but construction never began, according to the lawsuit.
After Simpson’s death, TXDOT spent about $60,000 to add rumble strips to the stretch of highway, the lawsuit states.
The family is seeking more than $1 million, according to the lawsuit.