Kurt D. Lloyd of Smith & Smith literally and figuratively overcame major obstacles to obtain a $4.35 million settlement in a bicycle-taxicab collision case.
In December 1996, a third year law student at Loyola University Chicago School of Law was riding his bicycle. At the intersection of Dearborn street and Delaware Place, the bicycle and a taxicab collided, leaving the bicyclist paralyzed from the waist down.
The settlement in Donald Hallsten v. City of Chicago, et al., 97 L1092, ranked 35th among 167 state tort settlements of $1 million or included in the Chicago Lawyer 2001 Settlement survey (related stories, pages 8 and 26). It settled Nov. 28, 2000, before Judge Donald J. O’Brien of Cook County Circuit Court.
To be eligible for the survey, settlements had to have been published in Chicago Lawyer, the Chicago daily Law Bulletin or Jury Verdict Reporter between July 1, 2000, and June 30, 2001.
In Hallsten, Lloyd argued that a construction canopy at the intersection obscured the plaintiff’s view and that there were no stop signs.
“We filed the case in January 1997,” Lloyd said. “Within months of that … there was a decision from the 2nd District Appellate Court … that bicyclists were not intended users of roads and streets and could not sue municipalities for defects in the road.”
That was his first hurdle. Later, in 1998, the Illinois Supreme Court, 4-3, upheld the appellate ruling in Boub v. Wayne Township.
To overcome the appellate obstacle, Lloyd walked north on Dearborn Street from Randolph Street to North Avenue. He wrote down every street sign.
“On the bridge on the Chicago River … there was an old sign with three-fourths of its paint, the lettering worn off, that had the picture of a bicycle on it,” he said.
The sign seemed to be directing bicyclists to use the left lane of the one-way street. He went to city archives and found that in the early 1970s, the city declared Dearborn Street part of a historical bicycle route.
But, he said, the city could not find a map of that bicycle route.
He then contacted the Illinois Bicycle Federation, which had a copy of an old map showing that Dearborn, from south of Randolph Street to Lincoln Park, was a bicycle route at one time.
A month before the accident, city workers took down a similar sign at Chicago Avenue and Randolph, he said.
“Some city worker never got up on the bridge and took the sign down. Otherwise, I probably never would have found out about this,” Lloyd said.
“So, even after the Boub decision came down, I was able to show [that] although city streets are not typically designated as bike routes, that by [the city’s] actions with regard to Dearborn, this was a preferred bicycle route in the City of Chicago. So, we showed intent.”
Lloyd said that information let him prevail over the city’s motion for summary judgment, which argued the street was not intended for bicyclists.
Under the Illinois Tort Immunity Act, Lloyd could not sue the city for a bad decision to erect a temporary construction zone or to change a roadway, he said.
But, the canopy had been up for about six months by the time the accident occurred. That was plenty of time for the city to realize the canopy created a danger, he argued.
To prove there was a blind spot at the intersection, Lloyd spent about $50,000.00 for computer simulations.
With specific timing and head turns of the bicyclist, the bicyclist could have stopped, looked, thought no one was on the cross street and still have had an accident, Lloyd said.
Lloyd said he had to show his client, eastbound on Delaware, could have stopped, looked and thought no cross traffic was coming north on Dearborn.
“He did, and he got clocked.” Lloyd said.
The plaintiff received two traffic citations for failing to yield the right of way. The citations were dismissed, Lloyd said.
Lloyd said the Illinois Bicycle Federation has since consulted him about proposed state legislation that would allow bicyclists to sue municipalities like motorists can, which https://www.marsalisilaw.com/ supports.