$300,000 Jury Verdict in Greenway Collision

Gentry Locke for the Plaintiff

Roanoke City Circuit Court

There are two main rules on the Greenway, which is a shared-use pathway in the Roanoke Valley: (1) travel in a predictable and consistent manner; and (2) look before you turn.  These are rules that reasonable and prudent people follow throughout the day whether driving, riding, walking, jogging, or running.

Unfortunately, on June 11, 2012 a runner, by his own admission, chose to violate both of these rules when he made a U-turn at a dangerous location on the Greenway without giving any warning or looking before he turned. His justification for doing so was that he assumed no one was around him because he did not hear anything. But our client, who was riding her mountain bike at a safe speed and trying to safely pass the runner on the left as required on the Greenway, had loudly called out “on your left” before trying to pass the runner.

So why didn’t the runner hear our client? What the runner failed to disclose, and our client found out in litigation after deposing the runner and subpoenaing his medical records, was that he had long-standing hearing loss for which he wore hearing aids, but he chose not to wear his hearing aids on the day of the collision. Interestingly, the runner’s hearing loss was particularly bad for women’s voices and our client was a woman. As a result of the runner’s decisions on that day, he turned to the left into the pathway of our client, who had the right-of-way, and collided with our client. Our client was thrown off her bicycle and she landed directly on her head, causing a traumatic brain injury with bleeding and bruising to her brain, as well as a significant scalp laceration.

The evidence convincingly showed that our client was not traveling at an unreasonable rate of speed because (1) our client did not suffer any other injuries; (2) her bicycle was not damaged at all; (3) the runner did not suffer any appreciable injuries—in fact, the runner jogged back to the gym after the collision; and (4) our client and the runner landed on the ground where the collision occurred.

The runner refused to accept personal responsibility for the collision. Therefore, our client was forced to go to Court to protect her rights, and affirm the rights of all individuals who safely use the Greenway. If the runner’s argument were accepted, it would never be safe for anyone to use the Greenway because any person could travel in an unpredictable and inconsistent manner on the Greenway without looking before doing so. This would jeopardize the safety and health of all users of the Greenway, including children and the elderly.

Over two full days, the Court and the jury heard from the lawyers for both sides, from many witnesses, and received numerous pieces of evidence (including the Guidelines of the Greenway and photographs of the location of the collision, which our client introduced into evidence). The Court found that there was merit for a jury to decide the case. Thereafter, a jury of seven citizens of the City of Roanoke unanimously found that the runner was liable for causing the collision and compensated our client in the amount of $300,000 with interest from the date of the collision. The jury’s compensation of $300,000 included approximately $90,000 in medical expenses and lost wages, as well as compensation for our client’s traumatic brain injury and permanent scalp laceration. The runner’s homeowners’ insurance company paid the verdict in full.  While our client will never be the person she was before this collision, she will use the compensation she received to help with her permanent injuries, and she hopes that this case result may prevent this from happening to someone else.

Status of the case:

The defendant did not appeal the jury’s verdict, recognizing that the Court and the jury had abided by Virginia law in finding for our client.

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