Connecticut: “Lawsuit Verdict May Shut MDC Reservoirs to Cyclists”

by Walter Olson on May 13, 2010

As lawsuits advance, recreation retreats: the Hartford-area Metropolitan District Commission “is now looking at shutting access to its popular reservoir trails to cyclists” following a $2.9 million jury award to a bicyclist who crashed into a gate. “The controversial verdict came after rulings that the MDC — a nonprofit municipal corporation — was not immune to lawsuits, in this case from a cyclist who wasn’t paying enough attention as she rode the well-marked trails.” [Rick Green, Hartford Courant; background from 1999]

{ 8 comments }

1 Rliyen 05.13.10 at 9:28 am

Yet another reason why we can’t have nice things.

2 Mark Biggar 05.13.10 at 2:59 pm

Why doesn’t “Assumption of Risk” apply here. I’d think that if your out riding your bike you must has assumed the risk of running into something.

3 Doug 05.13.10 at 4:55 pm

Nope, no assumption of the risk here in the Nanny State of America. We’ll fix you up no matter if your at fault.

4 wfjag 05.14.10 at 8:32 am

I think I see the problem. The article asks:
“Whatever happened to accepting responsbility for what you do? ”

Don’t know, since where I’m from it’s called accepting “responsibility.” Folks from a place where they can’t use spellcheck can’t be expected to know not to ride into well marked gates.

5 William Nuesslein 05.16.10 at 8:36 am

At risk of sounding like a broken record, the average Joe earns $2 million over a lifetime ($50K times 40 years) What kind of mind gives $2.7 million for a minor accident? Each of our states need to set up a good grief committee to limit awards by juries. It would be good to double the taxes of jury members who make such idiotic awards, but our system doesn’t allow that.

Various revenue transfers could be reduced by the total awards granted. That might do the trick.

6 William Eisenmann 05.16.10 at 4:09 pm

This was not a minor accident. She shattered 4 vertebrae, has a dozen pieces of titanium in her head and neck, and incurred $150,000+ in medical expenses. She has a 40% permanent impairment to her neck and upper back, and can barely move her head. She was an elite-class athlete, a Hall of Fame soccer player and a triathlon WINNER. She was a renowned artist and illustrator before this accident caused permanent tremors and nerve damage in both hands. The gate was practically invisible, in dappled shade, and was radically afoul of all safety standards, norms and practices. Also, the jury found her 30% at fault, which was spot-on. The jury verdict was 2.9 million, inclusive of the medical and other expenses, reduced by her 30% contributory negligence (net 2.03 m), less a third for attorneys’ fees (standard) and maybe 30k more for other legal expenses, leaving her just over $1 million; the jury found her life expectancy to be 42 more years, giving her approximately $25,000 per year for her lifelong impairments. Not a lot, really. Not enough, in my opinion.

Too many people just react to sensationalism without knowing all of the facts. THESE are the facts. Leave her alone, and instead question the MDC why they completely ignored all safety and engineering standards, tried to hide behind immunity, and refused to settle this case a long time ago.

7 William Nuesslein 05.17.10 at 5:46 am

Mr. Eisenmann illustrates what I call the Willie Mays problem with tort law. If John Doe does something stupid and breaks my arm, I can made whole with a payment of doctors fees to set my arm. maybe something for pain and suffering. But if Mr. Doe breaks Mr. Mays arm, the award would be very high for loss of earnings. Mr. Mays was an unusually talented baseball player and should carry insurance himself to cover his additional loss from accidents.

If I crashed into the gate, my injuries would be minor because I don’t fly on my bicycle. The speed at impact would most likely be the dominant factor in this case. She should have had higher insurance or take more of the loss. The community should not be held to account for her ability to go very fast on a bicycle.

I do feel sorry for the woman, as the injuries seem very painful.

8 Brian Williams 05.31.10 at 7:17 pm

“Too many people just react to sensationalism without knowing all of the facts. THESE are the facts. Leave her alone, and instead question the MDC why they completely ignored all safety and engineering standards, tried to hide behind immunity, and refused to settle this case a long time ago.”

Here’s another ‘FACT’ – the MDC is in the business of selling water to customers – they are NOT in the business of running a mountain bike park. They ALLOW us to use their land for our own enjoyment…the trade-off is supposed to be that in allowing us to use their land, they are to be immune from any liability.

As far as this particular accident is concerned, it’s amazing that she’s the only one to have been hurt so far when the gate is so “radically afoul of all safety standards, norms and practices”. The gate is supposed to prevent slow moving vehicles from going up a closed road on private property – how many safety standards can there be for a gate? Also, your contention that she’s receiving a paltry 25k a year for 42 years is a little mis-leading as she’ll be receiving that amount in an up front lump-sum payment (tax free I might add), so you may want do some TVM calculations there. Of course she’ll only receive this money if she wins the appeal (which she won’t) – and if she doesn’t win then the law firm she hired will be out a whole bunch of money (so maybe there’s some justice there). At any rate we can only hope that the MDC at least waits for the appelate court’s decision before banning biking…although I can’t say I could blame them if they didn’t. Why should they even have to go to court over this…totally ridiculous in my opinion.

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