Mark Roman | May 23, 2019 | Bicycle Accidents
A South Florida man paralyzed in a bike crash received a multimillion-dollar verdict in Palm Beach County last week. James Schnurr, now 67, an accountant and former government official, received a damage award of $41 million after a jury trial in state court.
Most bike crash cases involve motor vehicles. Schnurr’s case was different: he sued a property association after crashing into a pole on a bike-path which wasn’t properly marked. This sounds crazy at first, but the evidence at trial showed that Schnurr’s claim was justified.
The property association put the pole up on the bike-path without taking reasonable steps to make it visible. The association actually painted the pole beige to blend into the surroundings, rather than painting it bright yellow as traffic engineers recommended. There were no warnings painted on the pavement leading up to the pole either. Finally, the pole was made of heavy, immovable wood, rather than a softer material which would flex on impact. According to experts, those fateful decisions were contrary to decades of research about how to install poles safely.
Ironically, the evidence at trial revealed that the pole was intended to protect cyclists. It was installed as a barrier to prevent cars from driving down the bike path.
Schnurr was not riding dangerously before crashing into the pole. He was rolling along at about 14 mph in daylight and wearing his helmet. His view of the pole was blocked by his wife who was riding with him. By the time Schnurr saw the pole, it was too late to avoid a crash. He broke his neck on impact and was paralyzed from the chest down.
While the verdict sounds extraordinarily high, it was also consistent with the evidence. Schnurr couldn’t stay at his home in Jupiter after the crash and now lives in a rehabilitation center. He had to retire from the federal Securities and Exchange Commission, where he served as the chief accountant. A former professional basketball player and successful businessman, Schnurr can no longer even feed himself. He has multiple health conditions resulting from his paralysis which will quickly use up the damage money awarded by the jury.
Because the jury found Schnurr 50-percent responsible for the crash, he will actually receive about $18.5 million from the property association which installed the pole on the path. Schnurr also reached a confidential settlement with a golf club, which the jury found 5-percent responsible for his crash.
This case illustrates in dramatic fashion that cars aren’t the only riding hazards cyclists face. Poles and other obstacles which are installed contrary to reasonable safety practices can be a menace. Even for a rider wearing a helmet and cruising at low speed, a poorly placed pole can cause devastating injuries or death. Property associations should take notice of this case when making decisions about where and how to install infrastructure on bike paths in their communities.
Contact the Clearwater Bicycle Accident Law Firm of Roman Austin Personal Injury Lawyers for Help Today
For more information, please contact the legal team of Roman Austin Personal Injury Lawyers for a free initial consultation with a bicycle accident lawyer in Clearwater. We have four convenient locations in Florida: Clearwater, New Port Richey, and Tampa.
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