Superior Court affirms $3.1 million reward in case of motorcyclist's death

By Dee Thompson | Jun 29, 2017

HARRISBURG — A state appeals court has confirmed a Philadelphia County ruling that a motorcyclist was not comparatively negligent to the driver who hit and killed him in 2013, upholding a large reward. 

The state Superior Court confirmed the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas' ruling in its June 15 decision by Judge Alice Beck Dubow.

On April 4, 2013, Calvin Wilson Jr. was riding his motorcycle through the streets of Philadelphia with a friend. Wilson had a Go Pro camera mounted on his motorcycle. Kahlile Gray was driving a Dodge Durango going in the opposite direction when he tried to make a left-hand turn through Wilson’s lane of traffic, striking Wilson and killing him. 

Wilson's Go Pro recorded that he performed three wheelies within a half-mile of where the accident occurred. Gray’s alcohol level was tested and found to be .104 percent at the time of the accident. 

In January 2014, Lenora Partlow, administratrix of Wilson’s estate, filed suit against Gray for wrongful death. In February 2016, Gray conceded liability but claimed Wilson had been comparatively negligent. Partlow obtained a verdict of $3.1 million. Gray appealed. 

Gray’s appeal centered on four questions: 

-Should the court have allowed evidence of Gray’s intoxication?;

-Should the court have allowed the toxicology expert to testify given the lack of corroborating evidence?;

-Should the court have excluded portions of the Go Pro video showing reckless behavior by Wilson?' and 

-Should portions of the accident reconstructionists’ report have been redacted?

The police officer who investigated the accident, Officer Gary Harrison, had been working the Accident Investigation Division since 2002. He felt that Gray appeared lethargic and had bloodshot eyes and appeared intoxicated. That evidence was corroborated by the toxicology evidence.

The Go Pro evidence was found to be appropriate, as 17 minutes of the 40 minutes recorded were presented to the jury. It showed Wilson was operating his motorcycle recklessly, but the jury had concluded that Wilson was not comparatively negligent, and the Superior Court affirmed that ruling.

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Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas Superior Court of Pennsylvania

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