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Toronto’s Highest Profile Bike Accident Case back in the News: The Michael Bryant Story

Former Attorney General Michael Bryant is back in the news with the release of his new book 28 Seconds, A True Story of Addiction, Injustice and Tragedy. Notice how the “Tragedy” part in the title is last? The “tragedy” part should be first, because for those of you who have been following this story, it’s a tragedy for all those involved.

For those of who who haven’t been following, Michael Bryant’s story has fascinated those in the legal community; particularly the criminal bar and personal injury lawyers. His case is arguably the highest profile bike accident case in Toronto’s history. Never heard about it? Well, here it is in a nutshell.

Michael Bryant, a charming Harvard educated lawyer, served as MPP for the Toronto riding of St. Paul’s from 1999-2009 (that’s a pretty long political stint for anybody). Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty makes Bryant the youngest Attorney General in Ontario. He was a rising political star until…

The night of August 31, 2009 Bryant is out with his wife celebrating their 12th wedding anniversary. Bryant wa driving home with his wife in their Saab convertible on Bloor Street in the Yorkville area of Toronto when Bryant and cyclist Darcy Allan Sheppard get into a verbal altercation. What happens next is in dispute. But what we know for certain is that Mr. Sheppard somehow grabbed hold of the side of the Saab; the car swerved into the opposite lane, Sheppard’s body struck a fire hydrant, and his head struck the pavement resulting in a brain injury to Mr. Sheppard. Some witnesses say that Mr. Sheppard was trying to grab the steering wheel and had been rowdy and intoxicated before the accident. Other witnesses say that Mr. Bryant was trying to knock Mr. Sheppard off of his car. Mr. Sheppard late died of his brain injury the following day/night in hospital.web-bryant-book21nw1.jpg

Mr. Bryant was charged with dangerous driving causing death and criminal negligence causing death. In his book, Bryant argues that the police rushed to judgment in pressing charges. He believes that police should have waiting longer and conducted more thorough investigations before pressing charges. These charges were all eventually dropped in Court because the special prosecutor who was brought in found there was no reasonable prospect of conviction. It was found that Mr. Sheppard was intoxicated while he was riding his bike, and that he was an aggressor and that Mr. Bryant was essentially defending himself in the circumstances.

I don’t get it. In my humble opinion, because this was such a high profile case which caused the wrongful death to another, and considering that Michael Bryant was the Attorney General, there’s an apprenhension of bias (eventhough they brough in a special prosecutor from British Columbia to try the case). Even though according to a judge the facts didn’t point to a conviction, for the public’s benefit and confidence in the judicial system, this case should not have been thrown out of the Courts. It should have gone to trial, or settled outside of the Court for the public’s sake. Imagine if the Judge in OJ’s case, or the Judge in Casey Anthony’s case threw out the case before it even had a chance to go to trial. American’s wouldn’t stand for that. It’s a wonder that Canadians do.

With the release of his new book, Michael Bryant’s bike accident case is now back in the public eye. The family of the deceased and the police are angered by the book. I can’t say I blame them. Here a great article on the topic.

Let’s say that you’re the personal injury lawyer representing the Sheppard Family in their wrongful death claim against Mr. Bryant. Damages in the case would not be contested. Mr. Sheppard is dead as a result of a brain injury. But liability in this case would be hotly contested. Who’s fault was the bike accident? How much did Mr. Sheppard’s intoxication and actions contribute to the accident? What percentage of fault do you attribute to Mr. Bryant, and what percentage of fault do you attribute to Mr. Sheppard? These are all not easy questions for any accident lawyer.

One thing we do know is that this case is simple a tragedy for all of the parties involved. But particularly for the Sheppard family. Michael Bryant’s life goes on. His career continues. He’s presently a part time professor at the University of Toronto, and works as a consultant and/or mediator. He’s now divorced, and paying lots in legal and PR bills, but he still wakes up every morning a free (but liklely troubled) man. Darcy Sheppard’s life is over. His friends, family and loved ones will never see him again. That’s the ultimate price.

Speaking about the ultimate price, has anyone seen the price of the new Lebron James basketball shoes? $315! That’s ridiculous! What kid could afford to pay that? Well, the money will likely come from the parents, but still. With all I hear today about the economy, and the lack of disposable income for families, and the increasing disparity between rich and poor, this is just a slap in the face to all those families just trying to make ends meet. Imagine that kid in subsidized housing who idolizes Lebron James. All he wants for Christmas is a pair of new Lebrons. The family will have to make a big decision. Either not eat for a week, dissappoint their kid and not get him the shoes, or but the kid the Lebrons. I’m going to give a plug to my main main Stephon Marbury. Marbury is a former NBA All-Star point guard. He said that when he was growing up poor in the hood that he couldn’t afford a new pair of “cool” basketball shoes. They were just too expensive. So founded the line “Starbury” which sells basketball shoes and other basketball clothes at an affordable price. In it’s hay day, Starbury Basketball shoes sold for $15. Now that’s giving back to the community and taking care of your own. LeBron can learn a lot from Starbury.

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