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The Oregonian: $9 million award for couple hit while biking in the Gorge

Posted by on December 19th, 2019 at 10:47 am

Screen grab from The Oregonian.

The Oregonian reported earlier this week that a jury has awarded more than $9 million to a couple who were hit by a truck driver while biking on I-84 in the Columbia River Gorge.

According to The O, the collision happened in 2016 when Eric Moutal and Andrea Newman (both from Vancouver, BC) were biking to Portland on the westbound shoulder of the Interstate about seven miles east of Cascade Locks (near Wyeth Trailhead at mile post 52). Eric suffered severe injuries to his leg.

When I read about this case, two big things stood out to me.

First, if Eric and Andrea did this ride today, the collision would have never happened. That’s because there’s now an off-highway alternative thanks to the completion of the latest section of the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail. Instead of the very dicey and stressful shoulder this couple was forced to use, they would have been enjoying the beautiful new section of path known as the Summit Creek Viaduct, safely away from the Interstate.

(Quite a difference in conditions they would have had today, compared to 2016. Thanks ODOT!)

This crash and its aftermath underscores the urgency of building safe places for people to ride — especially in places where they have no other option. I recall the 2014 incident that killed Hood River resident Ellen Dittebrandt as she pedaled just a few miles east of where Eric and Andrea were hit and I’m thankful for the work of the Oregon Department of Transportation and the Friends of the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail to complete the path.

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The other part of this story that will stick with me is how the truck driver’s lawyers tried to blame the bike riders. The lawyer representing the trucker’s employer, shipping company DHL, tried to convince the jury that the bicycle riders had drifted over into the adjacent lane. He tried to say the collision was their fault. The driver himself added to this lie by claiming he couldn’t do anything to avoid Eric and Andrea. This type of blame game is extremely common in cases like this. As if it’s more likely that a person would willfully subject themselves to possible death or injury than it is likely that a driver of a large truck might swerve a few feet into the shoulder.

Unfortunately in many of these cases the victim isn’t alive to defend themselves in court and we don’t have reliable witnesses. I’m very happy that this time justice was served and the truth came out.

Read more about the case in The Oregonian.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org
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Middle of the Road GuyToby KeithpengoThe DudeGlenn II Recent comment authors
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John Lascurettes
Subscriber

Tragic. It’s more a loss than a win overall, but I’m glad it was a win in court.

9watts
Subscriber

One (still) wonders what ever happened to Christeen Osborn.

Hit from behind by Wanda Cortese on Hwy 101 in the middle of a sunny day with good visibility seven and a half years ago. As far as we learned here all Ms. Cortese got was a traffic ticket for ‘failing to maintain her lane.’

Dan
Guest
Dan

I had the same thought that the defense of “they were in the travel lane” was incredibly implausible. Fortunately, it looks like the jury agreed.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

From the details in the article, it sounds like that may be because another motorist behind the truck reported seeing the truck drifting onto the shoulder prior to the crash. Had it just been the truck driver vs. the cyclists, I’m not sure we would have seen the same outcome here.

Toby Keith
Guest
Toby Keith

Sorry I don’t think they deserved 9 million dollars.

Opus the Poet
Guest

Sorry, I’ve been hit by a truck at highway speeds and I know $9 million is way too low. There’s lifelong pain and disability to go with massive medical bills. Unfortunately because of the date I was hit by a hit and run driver I didn’t get the enhanced investigation for a felony that I would have gotten had the wreck been 23 hours later. I was hit on the last day hit-and-run was a misdemeanor in TX.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

You consistently have the absolute worst opinions about everything on here. Your world view is perplexing and disturbing.

“LifeFlight described Moutal’s injury as “near traumatic leg amputation.” He underwent four surgeries at OHSU Hospital between Aug. 3 and Aug. 16, 2016, before returning to Vancouver, B.C.”

If you were hit by a negligent driver and were never able to walk, run, or bike again, and it affected your ability to work for the rest of your life. How much would that be worth to you?

middle of the road guy
Guest
middle of the road guy

I thought I did.

pengo
Guest
pengo

yes, this whole thing is definitely about you. congrats bud

Middle of the Road Guy
Guest
Middle of the Road Guy

I guess I’m channeling my inner progressive.

Toby Keith
Guest
Toby Keith

Well good thing we have you as the BP opinion police. Keep up the good work, and you’ve earned your gold star for the day.

John Lascurettes
Subscriber

And yet, DHL will hardly notice the missing dollars.

middle of the road guy
Guest
middle of the road guy

I don’t think they deserved to get hit, either.

But there was a critical injury, so the concept of “deserved” goes out the window. It is being recompensed for the damages caused.

The Dude
Guest
The Dude

Do you have any idea how civil damages are calculated? Or is that just your uninformed opinion?

Unrelated question: Ever had your leg nearly severed?

Glenn II
Guest
Glenn II

The amount needs to compensate the victim, and act as a deterrent. a.k.a. compensatory and punitive damages. Does an armed robber deserve 20 years in prison and $375,000 in fines? Not necessarily, but that is the penalty. So it might be smart not to do that.