Officer's family settles motorcycle suit

High-speed wobble at issue in 2002 wreck that killed Raleigh policeman

Staff WriterJune 3, 2008 

— The family of a Raleigh police officer who died in a 2002 motorcycle wreck while chasing a speeder settled a lawsuit with Harley-Davidson Motor Co. and the Raleigh store that leased the vehicle to the police department.

Charles Radford Paul III, 30, was chasing a speeding car on the I-440 Beltline on Sept. 10, 2002, when he tried to overtake a tractor-trailer. A draft from the truck appeared to have caused the motorcycle to wobble. He veered into the highway's shoulder and was eventually thrown off the 2002 Electra Glide motorcycle.

A seven-year employee of the force, Paul left behind his wife, Tiffany, and daughter, Charli, who was a year old when her father died.

The confidential settlement was brokered in December, but the product liability lawsuit wasn't officially dismissed until May 5, according to court records and Mark Kircher, who represented Harley Davidson. The city of Raleigh also paid nearly $366,000 as part of workers' compensation, according to the City Attorney's Office.

The settlement was between Paul's estate, Harley Davidson and Ray Price Harley Davidson, the Raleigh area merchant for the motorcycles.

The lawsuit had claimed that a high-speed wobble caused the motorcycle to become uncontrollable, a problem that some Harley-Davidson enthusiasts, motorcycle mechanics and personal injury lawyers had noted previously. The cause of the wobble has been a matter of intense debate, with some lawyers and accident victims claiming a design flaw in certain Harley models as the source. Others have pointed to improper maintenance. Paul's lawsuit is one of several filed in recent years that center on high-speed wobble.

After Paul's death, the Raleigh Police Department ordered that its motorcycle units stop patrolling on interstates. That policy is still in effect, said Jim Sughrue, spokesman for the department.

The department has 16 motorcycles it leases from Ray Price Harley Davidson, Sughrue said.

Paul was the last RPD officer to die in the line of duty, making him the eighth in the department's history. Four died in motor vehicle accidents. The last officer before Paul to die in a motorcycle accident was killed in 1968.

sarah.ovaska@newsobserver.com or (919) 829-4622

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