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Road rager’s insurance pays $100,000 to injured rider

Posted by on June 19th, 2009 at 2:10 pm

Ben Ramsdell in April.
(Photo by Elly Blue)

The Oregonian reported earlier this week that Ben Ramsdell, the man who was seriously injured after being intentionally run down by Johnny Escwheiler on SE Clinton nearly two years ago, will receive a $100,000 from Eschweiler’s insurance company.

Escwheiler — who underwent a temporal lobotomy at age 25 — was found guilty except for insanity by a Multnomah County judge back in April.

The case has taken so long to resolve because Eschweiler has not cooperated with his own insurance company. Ramsdell’s Lawyer Mark Ginsberg told The Oregonian that:

“Johnny has refused to talk to his own insurance company the whole time… “They couldn’t do anything as long as he refused to cooperate.”

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At the outset of the case, Eschweiler admitted he intentionally ran down Ramsdell (he also ran into another man, Timothy Mastne). That further complicated the case because intentional acts are not usually covered by liability policies.

Here’s how The Oregonian explained it:

…when Multnomah County Circuit Judge Michael McShane found Escweiller guilty but insane, “intent no longer mattered,” Ginsberg said, noting that the driver in effect didn’t have the mental stability to know what he was doing.

Read more details in The Oregonian article. Browse our previous coverage of this story here.

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  • Richard June 19, 2009 at 2:35 pm

    Only in American can a man who lacks “the mental stability to know what he was doing” be given a license to operate a killing machine on public streets and set loose into the citizenry.

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  • indy June 19, 2009 at 2:44 pm

    At the outset of the case, Eschweiler admitted he intentionally ran down Ramsdell (he also ran into another many, Timothy Mastne).

    Doesn’t make sense.

    I’ve corrected that. It should have been “man”, not “many”. — Jonathan

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  • maxadders June 19, 2009 at 2:55 pm

    Wow– the next time I yell at an aggressive driver, I’ll try and remember that they may have been lobotomized.

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  • Mike M June 19, 2009 at 3:22 pm

    The good thing is that Eschweiler has lost his right to drive for life. I wouldn’t mind seeing this type of penalty handed down more often.

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  • redhippie June 19, 2009 at 3:46 pm

    Mike M

    I think you would be amazed how many people are out there on suspended, no or fake liscences.

    Do you think that the lack of a piece of plastic with your name on will stop this guy from driving?

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  • Hart June 19, 2009 at 3:48 pm

    So, wait…all I have to do is refuse to speak to my insurance provider and they will be paralyzed to pay out benefits?

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  • Jason S. June 19, 2009 at 4:22 pm

    @Hart: Nope. If you are declared legally not responsible due to insanity, then maybe you get this result. But I think this is an exceptional case.

    If you are sane and do not talk to your insurance company, then it may yank coverage, which is bad.

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  • Jean M June 19, 2009 at 4:45 pm

    Great news! Now maybe Mr. Ramsdell can get back to living his life and not dealing with insurance companies. I sincerely hope he has gotten back on his bike and will continue to enjoy the great biking community that is Portland.

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  • wsbob June 19, 2009 at 5:44 pm

    Whether or not it’s only in America that a person lacking “the mental stability to know what he was doing” can be given a license to operate a motor vehicle (what Richard #1 most likely refers to in his comment as ‘killing machine’) on public streets where the potential for harming people is great, the basic question is a good one.

    With the history of medical and psychological conditions Johnny Eschwieler was known to have, was it right for him to be trusted with a drivers license and the right to drive a motor vehicle on public streets? Of course, now, after the fact it’s been established that he deliberately hit and hurt someone while he was behind the wheel of a car, it’s probably clear to nearly everyone that he shouldn’t be granted that trust.

    How about before this incident? From the O article:

    “In court, a psychiatrist testified that Eschweiler – who has been brain damaged since childhood and has trouble controlling his impulses – was capable of living peacefully with proper supervision.”

    ‘…living peacefully with proper supervision.’ Does that include driving a car on the route required to go from St. Mary’s Academy in Beaverton, all the way over to SE Portland? In my opinion, that’s anything but an easy, stress free drive. But really, if the docs knew before this incident that Eschweiler’s capabilities limited him to ‘…living peacefully with proper supervision.’, he probably should never have been behind the wheel at all for a long time past.

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  • q`Tzal June 19, 2009 at 6:47 pm

    What insurance company did he have?
    Surely our law makers won’t listen to a few surly cyclists screaming for a change in the way drivers licenses are issued…

    if a major auto insurance provider, with concern for profit margins and the quality of wackos we in Oregon are allowing to drive, is influenced to throw its weight
    around in Salem perhaps change might come.

    Maybe some letter writing campaign to insurance executives, or better yet the investors in such companies, explaining that by allowing these drivers to even believe
    that they (the driver) can get a license they (the insurers) can be certain that large litigation payouts are in their future.

    For the sake of public safety, not to mention their bottom lines, auto insurance companies can not allow states to license the mentally damaged.

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  • Will Radik June 20, 2009 at 5:18 am

    Why the fuck is anyone who’s been LOBOTOMIZED (i.e. had a chunk of the part of their brain that governs conscious decision) allowed to get behind the wheel of a 2 ton+ piece of heavy machinery. This is a total failure of our legal system.

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  • Will Radik June 20, 2009 at 5:20 am

    please add “removed” to that last comment, after decision. ; )

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  • Will Radik June 20, 2009 at 5:33 am

    Travel Portland had a meeting at a “retreat” in Silverton, recently. Heh. Travel Portland is funny.

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  • Offhegoes June 20, 2009 at 9:13 am

    It is not surprising to me that this guy got a license. The last time I was at the DMV, I watched in horror as the DMV clerk coached an elderly man (who could barely see his own hand in front or his face) through the eye exam. He also failed the written test but the clerk just re-asked him the questions saying over and over “are you sure the answer isn’t ‘c’?”

    I have no faith in the DMV or the state to weed out drivers like this. The only thing you can do is treat our streets like the dangerous places they are and realize that most people driving out there have no idea what they’re doing behind the wheel.

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  • Matt Picio June 22, 2009 at 8:15 am

    Will Radik (#11) – It’s not a total failure of the legal system at all. The *legal* system worked fine, it arrested, charged, and prosecuted Eschweiler, and took him off the road. Being on the road in the first place isn’t the fault of the legal system, it’s the fault of the legislature, and DMV policies. It is far too easy to get a driver’s license, and far too easy to keep it. I just renewed my license, after it was expired for 6 months. I did not have to take any sort of test, even though I’ve only driven 6 times in the last 18 months. My last road test was 25 years ago, and my Oregon driving “test” in 2000 was 10 questions.

    Until the state legislature takes steps to ensure proper training and certification of people to operate motor vehicles, we will continue to have this problem.

    BTW, I find it immensely ironic that if Eschweiler had been sane and this had been a deliberate act, that the policy might not cover it, but since he was not mentally capable of understanding his actions, the policy is basically “forced” to cover it.

    I’m glad that Ben Ramsdell got a settlement from Eschweiler’s insurance – I hope it helps.

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  • Coyote June 22, 2009 at 10:21 am

    I am kind of surprised that the insurance company paid. Most insurance does not cover intentional acts.

    I wonder if his insurance company knew the driver was brain damaged? It seems like they would shy away from insuring a risk like that.

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  • Lisa G June 22, 2009 at 1:25 pm

    Coyote, Not necessarily. Health insurance companies want people to keep smoking, according to a recent report, so why would it be any differnt for auto insurance?

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  • Coyote June 23, 2009 at 10:57 am

    Lisa G good point, I was thinking of life, liability, and home owners insurance. I guess “health” insurance is a different cat, because they don’t care about risk beyond one policy cycle. (It is really is not health insurance, it is medical insurance.)

    Perhaps that is a partial solution to our medical insurance dilemma. If we forced insurance companies to write extend term, or even whole life health insurance policies they would actually care how healthy you are and care about medical costs.

    Thank you for a new thought:)

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