A tragic story about a police officer killed in a motorcycle crash has turned into a legal battle according to The Columbus Dispatch. Hilliard, Ohio officer Sean Johnson was in the fatal accident during motorcycle training on May 19, 2016, and now his estate is filing suit against Victory Police Motorcycles and its director of sales, Michael Schultz, as well as Polaris Industries and its trainer, Timothy Klenk. The four defendants are being sued for negligence that is being blamed for Johnson’s fatal accident.
To clarify, Victory Police Motorcycles LLC is a company completely independent of Polaris Industries. Polaris owned Victory Motorcycles which was defunct in early 2017 and Victory Police Motorcycles is an independent firm that takes Victory motorcycles and turns them into police vehicles.
The police department of Hilliard, OH was a client of Victory Police Motorcycles which provides training on how to use the bikes. The motorcycle in question was a Stealth Command I which was based on the Victory Cross Country bagger, Victory’s most popular model at the time the brand wound down.
According to the suit, Johnson, who was 46 years old at the time, had little experience riding a motorcycle as large as the Stealth Command I, of which the Hilliard Police Department bought four. During a training exercise, the front wheel of Johnson’s motorcycle hit the rear left saddlebag of another officer’s bike while riding on an off-ramp. Johnson’s motorcycle then hit a retaining wall at about 60 miles per hour and flung Johnson over the wall to about a 30-foot drop into a grassy area. Officer Johnson was pronounced dead seven minutes later from head and torso trauma.
The lawsuit says Victory Police Motorcycles and Polaris Industries failed “to adequately train and instruct the participants in the use and operation of a police equipment motorcycle in performing procession formations at close proximity which was extremely dangerous for the experience level of all participants.”
We reached out to both manufacturers for comment and did not hear back from Victory Police Motorcycles. Polaris Industries made the following statement about the lawsuit: “Our thoughts go out to the family and friends of Officer Johnson. However, we strongly disagree with the allegation that Polaris owns or has any control over Victory Police Motorcycles LLC. This allegation is simply untrue. Polaris was not involved in the sale of Victory Police Motorcycles to the Hilliard Police Department, and had no involvement in the training being provided by Victory Police Motorcycles, Mr. Schultz, or Mr. Klenk when this unfortunate incident occurred.”
This isn’t the first time an attempt has been made to sue a manufacturer for an accident. Perhaps the most famous example is Paul Walker’s daughter and father filing separate lawsuits against Porsche partially blaming the automaker for Walker’s death in 2013 in a Porsche Carrera GT crash. Both cases were settled and the wrongful death cases were dismissed.
"The suit seeks unspecified money damages, alleging wrongful death, pain and suffering, legal fees and funeral expenses. It notes that Johnson left two children, a mother, sister and, brother," according to The Columbus Dispatch.