The family of 65-year-old bicyclist and prominent entertainment attorney who was killed in a collision with a deputy’s patrol car has sued the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department over the death.
Attorneys for the sons and wife of Milton Olin Jr., who died Dec. 8 while riding in a bike lane on Mulholland Highway in Calabasas, announced the wrongful death lawsuit at a news conference outside a downtown Los Angeles courthouse on Wednesday.
Earlier in the week, the Daily News reported that cellphone records subpoenaed in a criminal investigation into the crash showed the deputy was texting immediately before the collision.
“This accident should have never happened,” Olin family attorney Bruce Broillet said in a news release. “The negligence of a sheriff’s deputy caused this terrible tragedy.“
Deputy Andrew Wood was driving his Ford Crown Victoria patrol car eastbound on Mulholland Highway when he hit Olin, who was riding his bike also eastbound in a dedicated bike lane (map), according to an affidavit filed May 12 by sheriff’s traffic Detective Russell Townsley.
Wood’s car failed to negotiate a left curve in the roadway and did not brake before hitting Olin, whose body flew into the air and over the patrol car, a witness reported, Townsley wrote.
The patrol car had “proceeded straight into the bicycle lane,” Townsley said.
Olin, an avid cyclist who lived in Woodland Hills and was an attorney at an Encino law firm, was pronounced dead at the scene. Olin had been an executive at the music file-sharing business Napster and had a 14-year career at A&M Records.
Wood had minor injuries from glass and debris, the Sheriff's Department stated after the collision.
A sheriff’s sergeant responding to the crash examined Wood’s cellphone and the device showed no record of use during the time of the collision, the detective’s affidavit stated.
But subpoenaed Verizon phone records showed that Wood had sent more than 100 text messages since about 6:15 a.m. that morning — including six texts in the five minutes before the crash, which occurred at 1:05 p.m., according to the Sheriff’s Department.
The last of the series of six texts was sent at 1:04 p.m., the records show.
“It appears that Deputy Wood may have distracted by using his cellular telephone or viewing and/or using the Mobile Digital Computer (MDC) in his radio car at the time of the collision,” Townsley wrote in seeking a court order for the cellphone records.
On April 29, Olin’s family filed a claim against the Sheriff’s Department, an action required before filing a lawsuit.
Broillet said Wednesday that he had requested to see the traffic report and evidence in the case but had been denied by the Sheriff's Department.
“The family is deeply frustrated by the lack of information coming out of the Sheriff’s Department’s investigation,” Broillet said in the release. “We intend to seek justice for Milton Olin and his loved ones.”
The wrongful death lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court Wednesday, alleges negligence on the part of Wood and Los Angeles County. The family is seeking general damages in excess of $50,000, unspecified economic damages and reimbursement for costs related to Olin's death and the lawsuit.
The lawsuit does not mention text messages shown in phone records subpoenaed by the traffic detective.
On Monday, a spokeswoman for the Sheriff’s Department said the investigation had concluded and been turned over the District Attorney’s Office.
“Due to pending litigation and the fact that the DA is reviewing the case it would be inappropriate to comment further,” department spokeswoman Nicole Nishida said in an email.
A spokeswoman for the DA's office confirmed the case remained under review Wednesday.
State law that prohibits texting or making calls on handheld cellphones while driving does not apply to emergency services personnel “operating an authorized emergency vehicle … in the course and scope of his or her duties.”
In addition, Sheriff’s Department policy prohibits the use of cellphones in a county-owned vehicle “absent extenuating circumstances.”
It was not clear if the texts that Wood sent were work-related or personal.
A 16-year veteran of the department, Wood was transferred from the sheriff's Malibu/Lost Hills Station to the court services division, the Daily News reported.
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are the victim's sons Christopher Olin, Geoffrey Olin and his wife Louise Olin.
"Losing a loved one is never easy," Christopher Olin said at the news conference Wednesday. "When it happens catastrophically, it is difficult to get any sense of closure."