Walter Rutland was riding his bicycle in the right lane of a state road, which had recently been resurfaced. When he slowed down and moved to the right to avoid a vehicle approaching from behind, the bike’s front came upon a drop-off between the newly resurfaced road and an area that had not been resurfaced. Rutland lost control of his bike and fell to the ground.
Rutland, 49, was hospitalized with spinal injuries. An MRI showed swelling at C1 through C7. He underwent decompression and fusion surgery at C2-7, but the injuries resulted in incomplete quadriplegia. He is only able to walk about 25 feet, and requires a wheelchair for further distances. He also requires assistance for most daily tasks. His past medical expenses totaled about $700,000 and his future medical expenses and life-care costs are estimated at about $4.5 million.
Rutland had been working as a computer engineer but is now permanently disabled. His past and future lost earnings are estimated at about $1.7 million.
Rutland and his wife sued the state, alleging that the road-resurfacing project – managed by the state department of transportation – had been completed in a negligent manner. Specifically, the plaintiffs complained that the roadwork left a two and a half inch drop-off where the resurfaced portion met the unsurfaced portion.
Witnesses testified that the defect resembled a small pothole. The plaintiffs also presented testimony by a maintenance supervisor who worked on the project that if he had noticed the drop-off, it would have been repaired.
The state argued that Rutland biked on the road regularly and was aware of the resurfacing project. The defense also argued that the incident occurred because of the fact that the bike’s front wheel suddenly released.
The court in a bench trial determined that the state was 90 percent responsible and Rutland was 10 percent at fault based on a finding that the bike’s front wheel was defective. Before the start of the damages phase, the parties settled for $13 million.
For more information, contact one of our Gacovino Lake attorneys at 1-800-246-HURT (4878).