Cambridge, Massachusetts – On October 5, 2016, Bernard Lavins, a 60-year-old doctor, was riding his bicycle in Porter Square during rush hour, when he was struck and killed by a tractor-trailer.
Mr. Lavins was struck by a Ryder truck with decals bearing the name Mitlitsky Eggs, a company that is based in Lebanon, Connecticut. He was struck at around 8:00 AM, at the intersection of Massachusetts and Somerville avenues. Cyclists passing by the scene expressed shock and sadness. Cambridge defines itself as a bicycle friendly city, but events like this have shaken cyclists who largely traverse through the city using their bicycles.
Unfortunately, this was not the first fatal accident involving a bicycle and motor vehicle that Cambridge had seen. Earlier this year in June, another bicyclist was struck and killed by a car in Inman Square. From 2010 to 2014, Cambridge has seen an average of 184 bicycle crashes a year, and there have been three cyclist deaths in Cambridge in the last 15 years.
After the incident this month, the area was closed for hours. The driver of the Ryder truck remained at the scene and cooperated with the authorities. The Middlesex District Attorney’s Office is investigating the incident but has not released any information about the cause of the crash, nor did they provide any information on whether they will file any charges against the driver.
Joseph Barr, the city’s director of traffic, parking, and transportation, stated that the Porter Square intersection has always been a concern. He noted that the city has proposed safety improvements in both Porter and Inman Square, but nothing has been done as of yet.
Unfortunately, tragedies due to bicycle accidents happen too often. In fact, according to the Center for Disease Control, while only 1% of all trips taken in the United States are by bicycle, in 2013, over 900 bicyclists were killed due to an accident. Furthermore, data analyzed from 2010 showed that fatal and non-fatal injuries to bicyclists results in lifetime medical costs and productivity losses of $10 billion dollars.
While the cause of Mr. Lavin’s accident is unclear, many times accidents between bicycles and motor vehicles are due to negligent driving. In this case, the family of Mr. Lavins would be able to recover due to the negligent action of the driver of Militsky Eggs from both the driver and Militsky Eggs.
In Massachusetts, the conduct of an employee can be imputed to the employer if the employee was working within the scope of his or her employment when his or her negligence resulted in injury. Specifically, Massachusetts Courts have held that the “conduct of an agent is within the scope of employment if it is of the kind he is employed to perform…; if it occurs substantially within the authorized time and space limits…; if it occurs substantially within the scope of employment as long as the act is otherwise within the purview of his authority.”
The doctrine of respondeat superior is used when an injured party or their family members are trying to recover for damages caused by the employee while the employee was working. In order to prove the theory of respondeat superior and add an employer as a defendant, the injured party must show that (1) he or she was injured, (2) the individual who caused their injury was the employee of that employer, and (3) the employee was acting within the scope of his or her employment. It is prudent to hold employers liable for an employee’s negligence because employers will have greater insurance coverage than employees, which would allow injured parties to recover the full extent of the damages they suffer.