After legal threat, property owner pays damages from crash on riverfront path bumps

Photos on the edges (Jonathan Maus/BikePortland) show the bumps before the repaving was done. Amy sent us the middle photo of them all smoothed out.

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.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Founder of BikePortland (in 2005). Father of three. North Portlander. Basketball lover. Car owner and driver. If you have questions or feedback about this site or my work, feel free to contact me at @jonathan_maus on Twitter, via email at maus.jonathan@gmail.com, or phone/text at 503-706-8804. Also, if you read and appreciate this site, please become a supporter.

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BobWellington
BobWellington
1 year ago

It’s sad it takes getting a lawyer for people to take responsibility, but at least the outcome was good…

Randi J
Randi J
1 year ago

Glad it worked out for Amy! Sad we need lawyers to have to make people do the right thing like keep paths safe. It’s the same for sidewalks in Portland where property owners are responsible for the upkeep. Unfortunately the city barely inspects them anymore and therefore owners allow them to deteriorate, rendering them dangerous to pedestrians. Just saw this on NextDoor aboot a Portland sidewalk disaster at a New Seasons store.

https://nextdoor.com/p/bfTPB32_g4mG?utm_source=share&extras=Mjc2MTM4Mw%3D%3D

PacificSource
PacificSource
1 year ago
Reply to  Randi J

I don’t have nextdoor and can’t access this. someone care to give a brief recap, please?

Pockets the Coyote
Pockets the Coyote
1 year ago

I’m glad that the company repaired this section. I am curious what holds them accountable to repair it and not remove it when faced with the potential of future lawsuits? With the discussions here about the lack of SW sidewalks I’m sure there is someone more knowledgeable than I would be after a half hour or so of googling, thanks in advance.

Charley
Charley
1 year ago

Yes. This is good and noble work by the lawyer! The path was clearly in poor repair and the owner clearly tried to avoid responsibility for its maintenance. Congrats to Amy!

Myth Dispulsion
Myth Dispulsion
1 year ago
Reply to  Charley

There’s no excuse for the indifference, though it’s too often the way of things now, once the legal wagons got circled. Maybe the lawyers on the property owners’ side in this case reviewed the details and realized they were indeed responsible in this case, and that is what it is. Who is responsible for the “rough trail” sign, by the way?

Chris I
Chris I
1 year ago

$5,000 out-of-pocket to get it replaced.

Top of the line e-bike to replace her old steel hybrid?

https://bikeportland.org/2022/09/13/whos-responsible-for-dangerous-willamette-greenway-trail-bumps-363375

Fred
Fred
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris I

Don’t forget that the $5k is equivalent to this company’s beer-and-snacks budget for the front-office break room.

Amy C.
Amy C.
1 year ago
Reply to  Fred

it was $950. jonathan corrected the error. a new build would have been about $5k but rob english from english cycles in eugene repaired it for me! so grateful to him.

I'll Show UP
I'll Show UP
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris I

That “old steel hybrid” is a classic, hand built, custom bicycle…

Chris I
Chris I
1 year ago
Reply to  I'll Show UP

Not true. The builder responded to my question on the original article and stated:

amy vegan

8 months ago

Reply to  Chris I

this is the builder. the bike was made in 1999 in factory though. at one point, GT bikes were factory built.

I’m glad to hear that bike wasn’t hand built, because that builder shouldn’t be in business. A frame should not crumple like that from a few bumps.

Amy C.
Amy C.
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris I

the bike hit a root then a lamp post. the tire didn’t pop and the frame took the impact of a direct mid-lamppost-base hit.

Sheilagh A Griffin
Sheilagh A Griffin
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris I

What do you mean? This was a $5K custom build bike by Georgena Terry not an old steel hybrid. The bike in the picture in the article riding on the path is not her bike, scroll down to see her bike crumpled. So are you trying to say she is asking for too much? I think she did not ask for enough frankly!

Chris I
Chris I
1 year ago

This was the builder’s comment on the article:

amy vegan

8 months ago

Reply to  Chris I

this is the builder. the bike was made in 1999 in factory though. at one point, GT bikes were factory built.

Which is encouraging to hear, because I would certainly hope a $5,000 custom frame wouldn’t crumple like an aluminum can because of a few bumps. I’m not sure why someone would pay $5,000 for a repainted 1990s GT bike frame and some upgraded components, but I guess everyone spends their money differently.

EP
EP
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris I

Chris I think you’re confused by GT, just like I was reading through here. It’s not the giant “GT Bicycles” company, it’s GT for Georgena Terry. “an American bicycle designer and businesswoman who began the first women-specific bicycle company, Terry Precision Cycling, in 1985.[1][2]” (Wikipedia)

Amy C.
Amy C.
1 year ago

the bike is a 1999 factory georgena terry trixie. the bike didn’t crumple from falling. the bike hit a root then lost control and hit a lamppost. the front tire didn’t pop but the frame took the impact from the lamp post hit.

Myth Dispulsion
Myth Dispulsion
1 year ago

That’s a note to property owners to check future easements and reject any kinds of requirements for upkeep and any exposure to liability whatsoever. If government wants a public thoroughfare for bikes and pedestrians or motor vehicles or whatever else, with an easement, it should include all costs, responsibilities, and associated liability related to its use, period. Not doing that is analogous to an unfunded mandate of whatever kind, and there are numerous. An example is a state law forcing zoning changes for more density but not providing money for the resulting infrastructure and educational, etc., costs arising from more residents. The worst people elsewhere have passed the worst laws specifically exempting the state from compensating local governments for this. This shouldn’t happen and landowners should never suffer from any effects of an easement on their property, not costs, not liability, nothing. Let those who secure the easement from the owners properly take these with it.

qqq
qqq
1 year ago

In this case, the easement and maintenance responsibilities weren’t foisted upon the property owner. They already existed. as did the path, and the owners chose to buy it anyway.

Karstan
1 year ago

This argument presupposes that the owners gain no benefit. I wonder how popular these office buildings would be if the Greenway didn’t exist? r, defenseless owners of this property are losing money hand over fist here.

EP
EP
1 year ago

Wow, that part of the path has been in bad shape since at least 2010…? I’m amazed, but not surprised, that it took this long to get fixed, too bad it took the threat of a lawsuit for them to act. I’m glad she is OK and it was just the bike that got broken.

Cason
Cason
1 year ago

Are these types of bike paths optional for developers? If they’re liable for accidents, I could see legal concerns dampening their enthusiasm to install them in situations where they have a choice.

Amy C.
Amy C.
1 year ago

Since it’s part of the Greenway, whoever manages the greenways could be more proactive in reminding private property owners of their responsibility. Or they could repave the entire trail as needed and charge the private property owners for the work.

PacificSource
PacificSource
1 year ago
Reply to  Cason

a good point but absolutely no different than a business maintaining the sidewalk in front of their business. for example, they are liable to clear the ice off so that someone doesn’t slip. something like this would not deter them from building a sidewalk from say their parking lot to the front door of their business

Paul
Paul
1 year ago

The company should remove their section of the path.

qqq
qqq
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul

That would be illegal. Also, the path was a legal requirement, as I recall, that the original owner accepted as a condition of having a permit granted to build the building there. The requirement would have been legally documented, so when the current owners bought the building, they accepted that requirement. If they didn’t want a building with a path they shouldn’t have bought the building, or alternatively they should have tried to have the requirement removed (or if they did try, they were unsuccessful).

This path isn’t something that got forced on the owners after they bought the building. They accepted it, knowing maintaining it was their requirement (or they should have known). Then, when their failure to maintain it hurt someone else, they failed to act responsibly.

Amy C.
Amy C.
1 year ago

This is Amy. I want to recap due to previous errors in the article.
The bike is a 16″ 1999 Georgena Terry Trixie with a 24″ wheel in the front and a 700 in the back. It was factory, not custom. Current Georgena Terry bikes are custom only. I was riding north on the greenway in glare. The roots were outlined in faint white spray paint that had rubbed off over time. Lots of folks on the trail, I was not going fast. There were parents w/strollers, dogs, other cyclists, etc. going south as I was going north.
I hit a huge root (now gone with repaving) and the bike “flew” off the root, lost steering control and hit a lamp post just north the root. The front tire did not fail but the frame took the impact. I spent days and days talking to the city to find out who is responsible for that part of the Greenway. Nobody knew. I was advised to file a claim to discover who was actually responsible for that part of the trail. So I filed a claim with a “pending” dollar amount with the City because I wasn’t sure if I could find a repair person or had to custom build a new bike. The city of Portland declined the claim and referred me to the private property owner. I reached out to the property *MANAGER.* She seemed super kind/empathetic and initially told me over several emails she would ask the company to pay for me to get a custom made bike (small geometry) from Georgena or any local builder or pay for repair but then after a few weeks of emails, she ghosted me. A few months later, her insurance company refused the claim in a mailed letter. Jonathan Maus at Bike Portland said I should talk to Chris Thomas, Attorney, at Thomas, Coon, Newton and Frost. In the meantime, I had called every bike builder in Portland, some around the USA and spoke numerous times to Georgena. The wait times on most new builds were around two years. I was quoted on average 6 months for repairs. Bike builders/frame repair folks are booked out!! However, one amazing human really cared and prioritized my situation. I am grateful to have met Rob English from English Cycles in Eugene. Rob had his team mate Eric pick up my bike in Portland. They stripped it, repaired the frame, had it painted, put all the components back on, and delivered it. The entire process was about 3 months (Rob was on vacation for part of this time). He was so kind and generous and charged me about 1/2 what Portland frame repairs were quoting. Geogena Terry was thrilled Rob agreed to fix the bike. Check out Rob’s amazing builds at English Cycles web site and Eric’s amazing paint work on Instagram at ColorworksPalette. After paying out of pocket and happy to get my bike fixed, Chris Thomas decided to take legal action. Thanks to him and Amber, I was reimbursed for Rob and Eric’s repair of my bike and so grateful. Also, thanks to Trek for replacing my then new Bontrager helmet for free under their one year crash replacement policy. And thanks to Jonathan for helping spread the word about Chris/Amber at Thomas Coon Newton and Frost and Rob/Eric at English Cycles.

PacificSource
PacificSource
1 year ago
Reply to  Amy C.

thanks for your extensive work on this Amy and for stepping up to ensure that this path is safer for future riders!

Amy C.
Amy C.
1 year ago
Reply to  PacificSource

Thanks. The entire Greenway from S. Waterfront to Sellwood Bridge has very tall tree roots. There is not enough “warning signs” for cyclists, let alone for parents with strollers. Whoever is marking the roots use white spray paint that fades easily and does not show up well in glare. All over downtown Portland, uneven sidewalks are marked with day-glo orange. Much safer.

qqq
qqq
1 year ago

Clearly the property owner was a “bad guy”. It looks like it was their responsibility to maintain the path, but they didn’t, and then ghosted Amy when she tried to communicate, forcing her to hire a lawyer to get their attention.

But I think there’s more to say about responsibility. One thing that really stands out to me is the warning sign that Parks put up. It’s hard to read in the middle photo, but clear here if you enlarge it:
comment image

It’s got Parks’ logo and info, and says, “CAUTION ROUGH TRAIL AHEAD” and “Cyclists please walk your bikes”. Parks is the bureau in charge of the Willamette Greenway Trail. From the sign, Parks clearly knew the trail was in bad condition. Yet it looks like all it did was erect a sign. Why didn’t Parks–years ago–go after the owner for not living up to its legal obligation to maintain the path? As people have said, it’s been bad for years.

Another thing–the year before this, the owner got a building permit from the City for extensive alterations to the buildings and site (issued 11/4/21 and still under inspection):
https://www.portlandmaps.com/detail/permit/2021-063627-000-00-CO/4703263_did/?p=R327902

I didn’t see any work shown on the plans to repair the path. That means the project went through the whole review process without the need for repairs ever being noticed by City reviewers. That doesn’t mean the reviewers did anything wrong, because they don’t have a way to know what the site conditions are unless the project consultants note the conditions on the plans. But the review process really should have a step where projects with trail agreements like this are checked to see that the agreements are being followed before permits are issued.

But also, the project’s consultants–especially the architects and civil engineers, given that they have a legal obligation to protect the public–should have noticed the poor path and called for repairs. Perhaps they did notice and told the owner, and the owner declined to include that work. But that doesn’t excuse the consultants from professional responsibility when it’s a public safety issue that’s obvious even to a layman.

My point about the permit isn’t really to lay blame, but to point out that this site had a whole slew of architects, engineers, contractors, plans reviewers and field inspectors scrutinizing it for years and it didn’t result in anyone fixing–and maybe not even noticing–the obviously dangerous path.

So the result of all this is that the City–along with the owner and everyone involved in the permits–left it to Amy to sort out where the responsibility lay, and to pay a lawyer out of her own pocket to get someone to take responsibility. And of course that’s also after she crashed, which never would have happened if anyone else in this whole chain had taken some initiative to get the dangerous path fixed sometime over the last decade.

Charley
Charley
1 year ago
Reply to  qqq

Good point. On the other hand…

I’ve worked as a contractor, and sort of apprenticed under a guy who is also a licensed residential inspector. He noticed code violations all the time. Violations surround us everywhere we go, and many are directly related to safety, not just building longevity.

The thing is, when you’ve been hired to work on *part* of a building, you can’t go around finding other problems and demanding they be fixed.

But the authorities sure can!!! So I am more concerned with the fact that it looks like PP&R saw fit to install warning signs about the pavement, rather than tell the owner to fix it.

Amy C.
Amy C.
1 year ago
Reply to  Charley

Really good point about the signage. A better warning sign would be a road sign that stands out in “warning yellow.” The current signs can easily be missed as they are not what we are accustomed to looking out for. A more visible and appropriate sign example is shown here. This “standard” sign shows streetcar tracks but it’s an example and bumps could be shown instead.

Screen Shot 2023-05-28 at 9.06.08 AM.png
qqq
qqq
1 year ago
Reply to  Amy C.

That would be much better.

But really there shouldn’t have ever been any warning sign, other than a very temporary one, since Parks should have required the owner to fix the path as soon as Parks knew it was bad.

To me, it’s like if the City gave a building permit to an owner to build a steel canopy over the sidewalk, with a condition it had to have 9′ clearance under it. Then when the owner built the canopy only 5′ above the sidewalk, instead of the City demanding that they live up to their headroom agreement, the City put up a sign warning pedestrians to duck so they don’t hit their heads.

That’s what gets me about this. The City regularly orders property owners to comply with regulations and agreements–everything from Fire Marshals ordering hallways to be clear to homeowners being ordered to fix their sidewalks before the City fixes it and bills them. But in this case, the City acted like the path was some toy for people that wasn’t important enough to tell the owner to fix.

Paul Cone
Paul Cone
1 year ago

The City — Parks, BDS, PBOT, whoever — needs to get after property owners more consistently on making sure this very popular bike and ped path gets the respect it deserves. It is pretty much the only reasonable path to South Portland past South Waterfront from downtown. Your only other option is Corbett, which involves going up and down a big hill. I’ve been riding it for over 10 years and the tree roots are a problem always, but it’s not just tree roots. (And there is a still big root marked further south with white paint — hope those property owners are paying attention now.) Sometimes you run into something like this, earlier this month, where contractors were doing some work on the restaurant next to the hotel and blocked the path completely, with no signage or detours or anything. People were resorting to a dirt path around the back of the restaurant. Would they let this happen on the motor vehicle access to their buildings?

IMG_2013.jpeg
Amy C.
Amy C.
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul Cone

Great point. When I returned to evaluate the area post-crash, it seemed OBVIOUS to me that the path should have warning signs at all entrances in all directions. Big yellow caution signs like road signs, not small little white and green park signs. We all know what warning/caution signs are supposed to look like. There are so many huge bumpy roots just south of the Spaghetti Factory and near the Ballet School at trail entrances. No signs at all. Also, just south of the now paved area where I crashed, there are still tall root bumps near the RiversEdge hotel. I spoke to the hotel manager last year but they clearly did nothing. Super dangerous. The city told me they would go out and evaluate where to post signage but never did.

PacificSource
PacificSource
1 year ago

Lawyer’s fees are insane so I hope that Amy was able to pay for all of them. It sucks that sometimes even if you have a righteous case, such as this one, the lawyers fees can be a deterrent to suing.

Amy C.
Amy C.
1 year ago

For those of you curious, I have so many other photos but this shows the largest area of damage on the frame NOT from hitting a root and falling to the ground but from hitting a root THEN flying out of control and hitting a lamppost. the tire didn’t pop and the frame took the impact of a direct center hit to a lamppost near the root.

Screen Shot 2022-07-22 at 1.47.58 PM.png
Amy C.
Amy C.
1 year ago

Green arrows show areas of frame crimping/bending.

Terry_crash_for_bikePortland.png