via The Oregonian
Cindy Lewellen, a 45-year old Portland resident who’s well-known in the local riding scene, filed a lawsuit this week against two people that she believes are liable for a collision that caused her serious injuries back in November.
It happened on NW St. Helens Road near that notorious intersection of Kittridge and Yeon (where the new Forest Park entrance is slated to go).
According to the lawsuit Lewellen was riding south in the bike lane. As she approached a driveway that led to United Rentals, a person driving in the adjacent lane had stopped for someone who wanted to turn left into the driveway. Here’s what happened next (according to the lawsuit, emphasis mine):
As defendant Juan Carlos Garcia was in the middle turn lane, defendant Jeffrey Lovelady [the person traveling in the same direction as Lewellen] indicated with his hands that defendant Juan Carols Garcia could make his turn in front of the motor vehicle defendant Jeffrey Lovelady was driving. Defendant Juan Carlos Garcia made the left turn directly in front of plaintiffs path of travel in the bicycle lane, causing a collision.
Lewellen is suing Garcia for making the turn and she’s suing Lovelady for encouraging him to do so.
This is a situation were a dreaded courtesy ended in with serious consequences. Lewellen was going 26 mph and was very badly injured in the collision. The lawsuit says she sustained a, “pelvic fracture, scapular fracture, rib fractures, sacral fracture, coccyx fracture, lung contusions, cardiac and pulmonary arrest, abrasions, contusions, and soft tissue injuries.”
This case caught my attention for a several reasons.
First, the way The Oregonian treated it was very telling and unfortunate. Check out their headline:
I’m not sure if it was intentional or not, but by referring to the person in the car as “well-intentioned” The Oregonian (or OregonLive, their website managers) pretty much guarantees an avalanche of mean comments (there are over 1,200 at this point) toward the person who filed the lawsuit. Especially when it’s a “cyclist.”
This is also the exact scenario that we published an article about last September. That article, written by lawyer Ray Thomas (who also happens to be Lewellen’s lawyer and a BikePortland advertiser) shared how being nice could make you liable in a collision.
Here’s what Thomas wrote:
“…when a driver waves another driver through stopped traffic — there can be disastrous consequences.
…the waver is assuming responsibility for conditions being safe to make the left turn.
Before one attempts to wave someone through they should always do a shoulder check for walkers, bikers and other overtaking traffic to make sure that they’re not about to create a wreck for others road users.
Every time we wave someone through or across a lane when the law grants no right-of-way to the recipient of the ‘favor’ the possibility of a collision greatly increases.”
There’s also some legal precedent for finding the waver liable in a traffic collision (as reported by The Oregonian).
The other thing that stands out about this case for me is the speed Lewellen was traveling prior to the collision. 26 mph is much faster than usual for a person to travel on a bicycle in those conditions. People who don’t ride a bicycle themselves, or who aren’t familiar with bicycle traffic in general, would have a difficult time judging the trajectory of Lewellen’s path.
It’s a very interesting case and I’ll be curious how it turns out.
— Read the lawsuit here (PDF)