This week, Alexian Lien of New York was riding in his Range Rover SUV with his wife and one year old child. They were celebrating their one year wedding anniversary. Suddenly, a swarm of "stunt motorcyclists" surrounded the Rover. Lien accidentally (apparently) bumped one of them. In response, the stunt motorcyclists went ballistic in a classic "road rage" incident. They started damaging the Rover, slashing at its tires, and causing damage. Lien then sped away and, in the process, ran over yet another motorcyclist who was not part of the group damaging his car and who was, apparently, innocent. This left the other motorcyclist paralyzed from a spinal cord injury.
Should Lien be liable for negligently causing the injury? This question requires a little knowledge about negligence law. What does "negligence" mean? It means a failure to act as a "reasonable person" or a "reasonably prudent person" would act "under the circumstances" as they were at the time of the incident. In other words, it depends upon the facts. Given the intimidating circumstances, was Mr. Lien justified in driving away in the manner in which he did? Or, would a "reasonably prudent person" have acted in a different manner? If a jury believes that he did not act reasonably under the circumstances then, yes, he may be found liable.
I really cannot offer an opinion one way or the other on whether Mr. Lien acted reasonably under the circumstances. I do, however, sympathize with his plight. You would have to be living under a rock these days not to have heard of other incidents in which innocent motorists have been assaulted or threatened in "road rage" incidents. And Mr. Lien, with a new wife and a one year old child in the car, was probably justified in being afraid. Here in my home town of Richmond, particularly on the Chippenham Parkway, I've seen plenty of bozos on racing motorcycles weaving in and out of traffic going close to 100 miles per hour, making me have serious questions about their sanity.
Despite these issues, however, it appears that the poor fellow who was seriously injured did nothing wrong and was innocent. Mr. Lien owed him a duty of reasonable care. The question for the jury, if the case ever gets to a jury, will be whether Mr. Lien lived up to that duty under these very bizarre circumstances.