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  1. #1
    Al noisebeam's Avatar
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    Jury asks city to pay injured cyclist $.7M

    I know nothing about this other that the article... I can only speculate on reasons why city vs. cyclist is at fault, so I won't.
    Al
    http://www.azcentral.com/news/articl...ward25-ON.html

    Tucson told to pay more than $700,000 to injured man

    Associated Press
    Apr. 25, 2006 07:35 AM

    TUCSON - City officials are considering an appeal after a Pima County jury ordered Tucson to pay more than $700,000 to a resident who lost the use of his left arm after a bicycle accident in a construction zone.

    Tim Harris, 47, was riding his bicycle in May 2003 when he struck a sandbag holding down a sign, was thrown from his bike and run over by a car.

    Harris' attorneys filed a lawsuit against the city, Williams Centre, Triumph Builders Southwest and Ajax Barricade Co.

    Court records indicate the case against Williams Centre was dismissed over the city's objections while Triumph and Ajax reportedly settled for undisclosed sums.

    Harris' attorneys Greg Wasley and Carter Morey argued that Tucson failed to create an alternative bicycle route as dictated by city policy and the barricades were put up improperly, "funneling" Harris into an ever-tightening space.

    The jury came back with a $1,360,000 award, assigning the city 52 percent of the blame.

    The city is studying the case to determine if an appeal should be filed, City Attorney Mike Rankin said Monday.

  2. #2
    Banned. Helmet Head's Avatar
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    The only important point I'm not sure about was whether the barricades funneled all traffic into an ever-tightening space, or just bicycle traffic.

    If they created a makeshift "bikes only" route with barricades that created an ever-tightening space, then I can see how Ajax (the barricade company) is responsible, and why they settled.

    But I don't think that issue is relevant to the culpability of the city. The issue there is whether the city should have created/marked/provided an alternative bike route, as (allegedly) per their policy. I mean, if they violated their own policy, it seems like Harris has a good case.

    But I think the question to cycling advocates is whether we should advocate for such policies in general, or whether we should lobby for more "share the road" approaches in construction zones.

  3. #3
    Sumanitu taka owaci LittleBigMan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by noisebeam
    Harris' attorneys filed a lawsuit against the city, Williams Centre, Triumph Builders Southwest and Ajax Barricade Co.

    Court records indicate the case against Williams Centre was dismissed over the city's objections while Triumph and Ajax reportedly settled for undisclosed sums.

    Harris' attorneys Greg Wasley and Carter Morey argued that Tucson failed to create an alternative bicycle route as dictated by city policy and the barricades were put up improperly, "funneling" Harris into an ever-tightening space.[/COLOR]
    While anyone injured by negligence should have the right to sue for just compensation (how can you really compensate for the loss of an arm?) I also sense there is a problem, here. First problem, lawyers drooling over their share of million dollar jury awards doesn't measure up to just compensation, to me. Second problem, if lawyers' greed drives city policy, we'll have more local governments protecting themselves from lawsuits at cyclists' expense by restricting where we can ride.
    No worries

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    ...when he struck a sandbag holding down a sign...
    I wonder what was written on the sign.

  5. #5
    Senior Member bikebuddha's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LittleBigMan
    While anyone injured by negligence should have the right to sue for just compensation (how can you really compensate for the loss of an arm?) I also sense there is a problem, here. First problem, lawyers drooling over their share of million dollar jury awards doesn't measure up to just compensation, to me. Second problem, if lawyers' greed drives city policy, we'll have more local governments protecting themselves from lawsuits at cyclists' expense by restricting where we can ride.
    Well it's only a really big payday for the lawyers if they took the case on contingency. Otherwise they have to settle for their normal hourly rate. And if they took it on contingency they have to recap all the expenses such as expert witnesses.
    The few, the proud, the likely insane, Metro-Atlanta bicycle commuters.

  6. #6
    Been Around Awhile I-Like-To-Bike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by unkchunk
    I wonder what was written on the sign.
    "Lookout for Sandbag Below"?

  7. #7
    Banned. Helmet Head's Avatar
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    I was on a jury once involving a slip and fall in a hotel bathroom. The jury instructions started with the question, "was the hotel negligent in any way that contributed to the injury?" If we answered yes, we were to continue on to questions about how liable they were, etc. If we answered no, we were done. While we all agreed that the hotel was not negligent, (the woman had only one foot on the hotel provided bathmat, the other foot was on the wet tile floor, wet because her husband had showered before her and warned her the floor was wet; she slipped when she leaned over to pick up a bar of soap from the bottom of the tub and her foot on the tile slipped out from underneath her), a surprising number of jurors argued that the hotel should pay something.

    "But we already agreed they were not negligent".
    "But I just think that they should pay for some of the costs".
    "But we already agreed they were not negligent".
    (blank look)

    Luckily, there were enough of us on the jury for reason to prevail, but I could see it easily going the other way if there were just a couple more knuckleheads present.

    In this case, the injury was much more severe (loss of an arm verses dislocated shoulder). Once jurors are convinced they want to help someone, all they need are excuses to do so. In the case I was on, the lawyer argued that the (standard white) tile was too slippery, that their maintenance guys were inept (didn't allow enough drying time for caulking), that the bathroom lights were not bright enough, etc., In other words, they were trying to give the jurors an excuse to find negligence. In this case, I'm sure they probably had a big screen image of the city's written policy about providing alternative bike routes, and the jurors who felt sorry for the guy jumped on the opportunity to "find" negligence on the part of the city.

  8. #8
    Senior Member Brian Ratliff's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Helmet Head
    I was on a jury once involving a slip and fall in a hotel bathroom. The jury instructions started with the question, "was the hotel negligent in any way that contributed to the injury?" If we answered yes, we were to continue on to questions about how liable they were, etc. If we answered no, we were done. While we all agreed that the hotel was not negligent, (the woman had only one foot on the hotel provided bathmat, the other foot was on the wet tile floor, wet because her husband had showered before her and warned her the floor was wet; she slipped when she leaned over to pick up a bar of soap from the bottom of the tub and her foot on the tile slipped out from underneath her), a surprising number of jurors argued that the hotel should pay something.

    "But we already agreed they were not negligent".
    "But I just think that they should pay for some of the costs".
    "But we already agreed they were not negligent".
    (blank look)

    Luckily, there were enough of us on the jury for reason to prevail, but I could see it easily going the other way if there were just a couple more knuckleheads present.

    In this case, the injury was much more severe (loss of an arm verses dislocated shoulder). Once jurors are convinced they want to help someone, all they need are excuses to do so. In the case I was on, the lawyer argued that the (standard white) tile was too slippery, that their maintenance guys were inept (didn't allow enough drying time for caulking), that the bathroom lights were not bright enough, etc., In other words, they were trying to give the jurors an excuse to find negligence. In this case, I'm sure they probably had a big screen image of the city's written policy about providing alternative bike routes, and the jurors who felt sorry for the guy jumped on the opportunity to "find" negligence on the part of the city.
    My boss at the office is a lawyer and apparently this trait of juries is well known to trial lawyers; lawyers actively play up on this trait in just the way you suggest. The lawyer's first job is to convince the jury that their client is the wronged party. Once that is done, then it is simply a matter of giving the jury the technical reasons (or some would say "excuses") to act on what they already believe.

    You are a guy who loves logic and reason, so would probably object to this trait, but arguably, this is the reason why juries are used in the first place. Sometimes a person's intrinsic sense of fairness is more accurate than the most technical expose of pure reason. Unfortunately, this also is what breeds all the slippery, slimy images of lawyers, and of course, why lawyers are paid so much for their services.
    Cat 2 Track, Cat 3 Road.
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  9. #9
    Senior Member randya's Avatar
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    In Portland, when road work is being done along an established bike route, particularly on the Willamette River bridges and their approaches, it is typical for the initial signage and detours for bicycle traffic to be inadequate, and corrected later only due to the numerous complaints filed with the city by bicyclists.
    Last edited by randya; 04-27-06 at 11:54 AM.

  10. #10
    Senior Member sggoodri's Avatar
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    Is the route in question an ordinary road, or a "designated" bike route? And should this matter?

    This makes me think of the Boub case in Illinois. Did the court decide that the negligence was based on a special designation of the road (despite the legal right of cyclists to use all ordinary roads) and if not for that designation, would a municipality be spared a finding of negligence?

  11. #11
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    Living in the area, and knowing where the accident occurred BUT NOT THE DETAILS.

    There are two roads that pass the "Williams Centre". One has a combo bus/bike lane, one has a striped shoulder 4-10 foot bike lane.

    I'm almost certain the accident would NOT have occurred if the cyclist had taken a traffic lane to pass the construction zone. Here in Tucson, cyclists have the right to take a traffic lane when needed (even when a bike lane is present), in fact the cyclist guide recommends you ride in the middle to right 1/3 when doing this so cars do not attempt unsafe passing.

  12. #12
    Banned. Helmet Head's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian Ratliff
    My boss at the office is a lawyer and apparently this trait of juries is well known to trial lawyers; lawyers actively play up on this trait in just the way you suggest. The lawyer's first job is to convince the jury that their client is the wronged party. Once that is done, then it is simply a matter of giving the jury the technical reasons (or some would say "excuses") to act on what they already believe.

    You are a guy who loves logic and reason, so would probably object to this trait, but arguably, this is the reason why juries are used in the first place. Sometimes a person's intrinsic sense of fairness is more accurate than the most technical expose of pure reason. Unfortunately, this also is what breeds all the slippery, slimy images of lawyers, and of course, why lawyers are paid so much for their services.
    I don't fault the lawyers for trying.
    I fault the jurors for falling for it when the "technical reasons" don't hold up to reasonable muster.
    I fully support the system that relies on jurors to figure out the difference. I do believe they get it right more often than not.

    I also think the jury system works better in criminal cases (guilty or innocent) than in civil cases (how much should the poor slob get from the guy with the deep pockets?). I do think there is a problem with juries being a little to prone to awarding the underdog, just because he's the underdog, but I don't know what the solution is. The costs of this kind of litigation, and losing such cases, are borne by all of society.

    By the way, I'm quite certain I could have gotten the jury to go the other way. All I would have to do was point out that just because many other hotels use inherently slippery-when-wet tile in their bathrooms doesn't mean it's not negligent to do so. An important role of juries in our society is to send the right message in cases like this. The only way hotels are going to change their dangerous practice of using slippery-when-wet tiles in their bathrooms is by having a few of them lose a few cases in court, like this one. It's up to us to send the right message. The bigger the punitive damages, the better the message. That would have been more than enough to convince at least 8 of them (plus me is 9) to find in favor of the plaintiff, which is all that was required. Punitive damages of a few hundred thousand for a small hotel like that would have been brutal.

    But I didn't argue that because I didn't believe it. The slippery-when-wet tile also happens to be sanitary (easy to clean), durable, pleasant, attractive and economical. Everyone must be responsible for their own safety in a bathroom, unless there is something blatantly wrong with it. Finding the hotel neglible for using standard tile would have been the wrong decision.

  13. #13
    Kicked out of the Webelos bluebottle1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian Ratliff
    My boss at the office is a lawyer and apparently this trait of juries is well known to trial lawyers; lawyers actively play up on this trait in just the way you suggest. The lawyer's first job is to convince the jury that their client is the wronged party. Once that is done, then it is simply a matter of giving the jury the technical reasons (or some would say "excuses") to act on what they already believe.
    I both agree and disagree with that. It really depends upon the jury pool where the trial takes place. In some states and localities, businesses have been beating the "tort reform" drum so hard that a heavy emphasis on creating juror sympathy can easily backfire. Creating sympathy is fine, but the facts establishing a basis for recovery need to be front and center. I've seen fairly plain vanilla plaintiffs win their cases because they could tell their story well. At the same time, I've seen widows and orphans get poured out for nothing (three weeks before Christmas, no less). Your boss is correct in that giving the jury something to hang their hats on is a significant part of the lawyer's job, but sympathy alone won't get you a big damages verdict.
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  14. #14
    Kicked out of the Webelos bluebottle1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Helmet Head
    I also think the jury system works better in criminal cases (guilty or innocent) than in civil cases (how much should the poor slob get from the guy with the deep pockets?). I do think there is a problem with juries being a little to prone to awarding the underdog, just because he's the underdog, but I don't know what the solution is. The costs of this kind of litigation, and losing such cases, are borne by all of society.

    By the way, I'm quite certain I could have gotten the jury to go the other way. All I would have to do was point out that just because many other hotels use inherently slippery-when-wet tile in their bathrooms doesn't mean it's not negligent to do so. An important role of juries in our society is to send the right message in cases like this. The only way hotels are going to change their dangerous practice of using slippery-when-wet tiles in their bathrooms is by having a few of them lose a few cases in court, like this one. It's up to us to send the right message. The bigger the punitive damages, the better the message. That would have been more than enough to convince at least 8 of them (plus me is 9) to find in favor of the plaintiff, which is all that was required. Punitive damages of a few hundred thousand for a small hotel like that would have been brutal.
    Again, it really depends on the local jury pool. Juries are very conservative in some locales. Also, we have plenty of courts of appeals that are happy to reverse jury verdicts. The value that a jury places on a case is often not the case's true value because you have to factor in likelihood of reversal and costs of appeal. At an earlier stage, you have to factor in the likelihood of a bad jury verdict and costs of readying the case for trial, which can be very substantial. This is why most cases never make it to a jury. They get settled or dismissed well in advance of trial. I don't know the exact figure, but I'm sure far less than 10% of cases filed ever go before a jury.

    In the situation you describe, it's unlikely that punitive damages could even come into play. In Texas, it's very difficult to get punitive damages and they are not even pled in the vast, vast majority of cases. The only likelihood I could see of a punitive damages verdict in the scenario you describe is if the hotel had a good number of past injuries which were all attributable to this same sort of tile. I can tell you that in my locale, that case would almost certainly never have made it to trial. If it did, it would be a nominal damages case, at best. Slip and fall cases are extremely difficult to win these days.
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  15. #15
    Al noisebeam's Avatar
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    I fairly often find leftover sandbags in the BL or shoulder after construction has left. They get ripped apart from tire hits after a few weeks, spread their sand over the next few, then are eventually gone.

    Al

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