The question we posed in September of last year about who’s responsible for upkeep of a popular portion of the Willamette River Greenway bike path has been answered.
In July 2022, a Portland woman named Amy was riding on the path when her bike hit a tree root on the path and then slammed into a lamp post and crumpled. It happened just south of the Old Spaghetti Factory (and it wasn’t even the first time we’d flagged these bumps). Her bike was totaled, but when she sought compensation for what happened, she got doors slammed in her face. The City of Portland denied her claim, saying it was a private matter she should take up with the owner of the property. So Amy reached out to a representative of the firm that owns the parcel (Clarify Ventures). After an initial conversation that held promise of an amicable resolution, the company stopped communicating with her.
The bicycle was very special to Amy and it was completely destroyed. All she wanted was be compensated for the property damage since she had to pay about $950 out-of-pocket to get it repaired.
With nowhere to turn, Amy hired a lawyer in hopes of making progress on the case. And it worked! Not only has the section of pavement that was riddled with cracks and bumps been repaved in the past few months, but the company has paid Amy $950 she spent to have it repaired.
Chris Thomas, one of the lawyers who represented Amy, said the property owner decided to play ball only after they realized Amy had a lawyer. He cited an Oregon law (ORS 20.080) that says defendant who ignores a property damage claim that’s under $10,000 is liable for the amount of the claim, plus any attorney fees if they lose a lawsuit over the claim. “In this case, we sent a property damage demand for Amy’s cost of repairing her bike under ORS 20.080. The defendant’s insurer had the choice of paying Amy’s repair cost, or defending a case where, if they lost, they would be on the hook for both the bike repair costs and my attorney fees. They elected to settle the case,” Thomas shared with BikePortland.
“Before Amy retained us, the defendant’s insurer denied her claim. This an example of how insurers can evaluate cases differently when there is the threat of litigation and/or attorney fees.”
Given that the company paid out Amy’s claim after the City of Portland denied it, and the fact that the property owners paved the path, Chris says the case also confirms that the property owners are responsible for maintaining this section of the path. That will be good to keep in mind if poor path conditions lead to any other crashes in the future.
CORRECTION, 5/27 at 4:30 pm: Amy was awarded $950 to get her bike repaired. The previous version of this article stated that she received $5,000 to have it replaced. I regret the error.