Bicycle Accident Victim Wins  

BICYCLE ACCIDENT VICTIM’S CASE ALLOWED ON APPEAL

CASE HAD BEEN DISMISSED BY TRIAL JUDGE BECAUSE VICTIM COULDN’T IDENTIFY PRECISE SIDEWALK OBSTRUCTION THAT CAUSED THE CRASH.

Here’s a summary of a bicycle accident case, decided recently.

During the afternoon of August 14, 2012, Karen Walter was riding her bicycle on the Boardwalk in Atlantic City. Bicycles were prohibited after 12:00 p.m., so a police officer ordered her off the Boardwalk. Complying with the order, Ms. Walter rode her bike down a ramp and onto a sidewalk owned by three companies. (We’ll refer to those companies as the “defendants.”) Ms. Walter continued down the sidewalk.  She then “hit something underneath the wheel” and fell over her handlebars. She suffered injuries to her hip and wrist.

In pre-trial, out-of-court testimony, Ms. Walter admitted that she did not know precisely what caused her bicycle accident. Ms. Walter’s boyfriend, who was riding in the street, also did not see what caused Ms. Walter to fall.

On September 27, 2012, William Swiderski, an engineer hired by Ms. Walter, visited the site of the fall. Swiderski observed two obstructions on the sidewalk.  Swiderski thus concluded that those obstructions were the cause of the bicycle accident and injuries suffered by Ms. Walter.

Therefore, Ms. Walter sued the defendants. The defendants applied to have the case dismissed.  They argued Ms. Walter could not “even say what the defect [was].” Defendants reasoned that, in order to proceed to trial, “Ms. Walter herself ha[d] to say what caused her to fall.

Trial Judge Rules.

The trial judge agreed. The judge concluded, “[Ms. Walter] had absolutely no idea what caused her to fall. She was asked on numerous occasions…. and yet . . . could not identify any condition.” The judge was dismissive of Swiderski’s report.  The judge noted that that the “job of an expert is not to go to a site and [just] determine that there is a dangerous condition somewhere in the area.” Therefore, the judge entered an order granting defendants’ dismissal motion.

Appeal Reverses Trial Judge.

As a result, Ms. Walter appealed.

The appeals judges agreed with Ms. Walter that there was enough evidence in her favor to send the case to a jury.  During her pre-trial testimony, Ms. Walter said she fell immediately after hitting a “hard” object that may have been “metal.” She further testified that she fell between “two things.” Ms. Walter’s expert later observed a sewer and water box in the middle of the sidewalk at the accident site. Accordingly, a rational juror could conclude that the hard object Ms. Walter rode over was one of these two obstructions.

Therefore, the appeals court reversed the ruling of the trial judge. Ms. Walter will get her day in court before a jury.

Good call.

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