Lawsuit: Homeowner’s negligence led to motorcycle crash

Ethel Johnson on her motorcycle (Daniel Osborne Photo)
Emily Johnson on her motorcycle (Courtesy: Daniel Osborne)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The family of a woman who suffered a traumatic brain injury after a motorcycle crash in March is suing a man they say failed to dispose of his debris that potentially caused the crash.

Austin police say Emily Johnson was riding along the 4900 block of Bolm Road around 5:30 a.m. on March 27 when she ran into a 15-foot pole in the roadway, which caused her to skid more than 85 feet down the road. Police say it was dark and foggy at the time, and she had no way of seeing the telephone pole until it was too late.

The week after the crash, a safety investigator with Austin Energy told KXAN the pole had been sitting on private property at the corner of Bolm Road and Gullet Street for several years, but the homeowner recently moved the pole closer to the street to work on his new fence. The lawsuit claims the homeowner and a friend carried the pole to the street, place it on the curb and “hoped someone would pick it up.” The lawsuit goes on to say the homeowner “abandoned his property in the roadway creating a public nuisance.”

The pole was left by the curb for more than two weeks, which violated two city ordinances, the lawsuit continues. One ordinance states abandoned property cannot be left in a public place for more than 48 continuous hours, or in a way that interferes with traffic. The other says abandoned property is considered a public nuisance.

The homeowner tells KXAN he wasn’t aware of the lawsuit. He says he put the pole, which was already on his property when he bought it, in the grassy area next to the sidewalk on the other side of his fence, while they were building a new fence. The man says he was going to call to have someone pick it up.

It’s still unknown, however, how the pole ended up in the street. Austin Energy says they’re still trying to figure out how the pole ended up in the homeowner’s yard, originally. They say an old pole was removed from the property in 2007, but they’re still investigating who it belonged to.

Friends say while Johnson was in a coma after the crash, she is currently recovering at a rehabilitation center.

A $2,000 reward is being offered for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the person who put the telephone pole in the road.

Bulk Pick-Up in Austin

Matthew Mendoza lives next door to the homeowner. He says he’ll pay more attention to what he puts on the curb.

“It is kind of scary. I guess you never know what’s going to happen if you just leave something on the side of the road,” says Mendoza.

If your trash is collected in the city of Austin, there are guidelines to follow. Austin Resource Recovery picks up bulk items twice a year.

“We ask that you pile them up as metals, non-metals and passenger tires without any metal components in them,” explains Memi Cardenas with Austin Resource Recovery. “We ask that you put [bulk items] out by 6:30 a.m. the Monday of your collection week and give us until Friday at 5 p.m. to collect it all.”

You can also request a specific date for bulk trash pick-up in Austin, for a fee. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Users who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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