It’s been nearly 10 years since plaintiff in Camicia v. City of Mercer Island was seriously injured in a Washington state bicycle accident that left her paralyzed. The case has been volleyed to various courts over the years on a number of issues, most recently to the Washington Supreme Court on the question of the applicability of the Recreational Use Statute. The high court remanded the case back to the trial court for further proceedings.
Now, less than two weeks before trial was scheduled, the city agreed to settle the case for $6.95 million. Another defendant, a construction company, settled weeks before that for a confidential sum.
Bicycle accidents are a serious problem nationally, but especially so here in Florida. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports in 2013, there were nearly 750 bicyclists killed and another 48,000 injured. Florida had the second-highest number of bicyclist fatalities that year with 133. However, the state with the most – California – had 141 – which is 6 percent higher, despite the fact that California’s population is 95 percent higher than Florida’s.
That makes the Sunshine State the most dangerous for bicyclists.
In terms of the number of deaths, Lee County had the third-most in the state in 2014, according to the Fort Myers News-Press. A significant number of these cases involve situations in which bicyclists are struck by motor vehicles, with the driver often at-fault, and thus liable to cover cyclist’s losses.
However, there may be some situations in which traffic engineers or other government agencies or third parties could be liable as well. The Camicia case was an example of this.
According to court records, plaintiff was bicycling on a trial along the interstate when she approached an intersection. At the time, the city, which owned and maintained the trail, had contracted with a construction company for a project to erect a “park and ride” facility. In order to block public access to the construction, the contractor installed a chain link fence around the site. However, a portion of that fence stuck out onto the trial.
Plaintiff saw the bottom of the fence as she approached, and veered her bicycle to the right. However, she looked up just in time to see a wooden post in her path. She struck that post, was thrown from her bicycle and as a result of that fall, suffered severe injuries that resulted in permanent paralysis. She is no quadriplegic. That was in 2006.
She later filed a personal injury lawsuit against both the construction company and the city. Defendant city moved for summary judgment in its favor, citing the Recreational Use statute. Florida has a similar law, and it basically holds that property owners who grant public access to their land at no cost for recreational purposes can’t be held liable for injuries suffered as a result of dangerous conditions on that property – unless defendant was grossly negligent or intentionally sought to cause harm.
Trial court granted that motion, but the Washington Supreme Court reversed. The court ruled there was a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the trail on which plaintiff was injured was intended for recreational purposes or transportation purposes. That would be a question for jurors to decide.
Then in September, a superior court judge fined the city $10,000 for spoliation of evidence after it was revealed the city destroyed a number of records pertaining to previous bicycle accidents and injuries caused by the wooden bollards on the bike path. The city insisted the destruction was inadvertent, but regardless, the judge ruled the city would have to pay and also, the jury would be given an instruction indicating the destroyed evidence would have produced facts that supported plaintiff’s assertions.
That no doubt played a role in the city’s decision to settle the case before trial.
Call Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, at 1-800-646-1210.
City settles bike injury lawsuit, Oct. 26, 2015, Staff Report, Mercer Island Reporter
More Blog Entries:
Fort Myers Bicycle Crash Prevention Touted by Local News Reporter, Oct. 6, 2015, Fort Myers Bicycle Accident Attorney Blog