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Man Who Fell Off Bike on Western Avenue Suing City

Attorneys for Mill Valley resident say Petaluma's inability to maintain its streets caused a man to break his ribs and clavicle, damages from which he is still recovering a year after the accident.

A man who fell off his bicycle during a race through Petaluma last August is suing the city and says that the poor condition of the road is directly responsible for his injuries.

Christopher Minick, a 60-year-old Mill Valley resident, was participating in the Holstein Hundred Charity Bike Ride when he hit a pothole on Western Avenue, just west of Hill Drive and fell of his bike.

The crash resulted in a broken clavicle, six broken ribs, a broken wrist and required surgery and a six day hospital stay. In fact, Minick is still undergoing treatment a year after the fall, said his attorney, Chris Dolan.

“Mr. Minick is an experienced cyclist who was wearing a helmet at the time of the accident,” Dolan said. “Despite that he has injuries that will plague him for the rest of his life, including bleeding of the brain...The city has an obligation to provide roads that are safe for the public.”

Since the accident, the Department of Public Works has patched up the pothole and many others in the area.

The lawsuit was filed on June 28 at Sonoma County Superior Court and seeks unspecified damages that will likely total more than “six figures,” Dolan said.

The suit contends that the city “had the power to prevent, fix and guard against the dangerous condition” and that the potholes on the roadway “created a substantial and reasonably foreseeable risk of serious injury.”

Claims and lawsuits against the city for road conditions make up roughly a forth of all legal actions by residents, a number that increased by 70 percent between 2009 and 2010, according to Ron Blanquie, the city’s risk manager.

That’s due to deep budget cuts that have left virtually no money for road repairs within city limits.

“There is a general weakening of the city infrastructure, the ability to do maintenance, to make repairs and respond to conditions,” Blanquie said. “If we had the money to fix everything, we’d love to do that, especially from a risk management point of view. But there are limited resources.”

According to the Metropolitan Transportation commission Petaluma streets are among some of the worst in the Bay Area and received a failing grade in 2010. In the study, Petaluma roads received a score of 55 points, below Bay Area's average of 66 out of 100. 

Do you think the city of Petaluma should pay cyclists and pedestrians who are injured while walking or cycling on city streets? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

The Happy Medium August 03, 2012 at 07:59 PM
He is wrong! I'm tired of this putting on others what they ought to be responsible for themselves. What audacity suing a city for ones own actions especially during tough times. Anyone in their right mind ought to know what goes with the territory they choose to ride. If you are in a kayak race and hit a rock who do you sue? He sues just because he can and it's time to close that loophole. Who can write a new law that says every city is not responsible for clumsy people who should have their eyes checked and are obviously risk takers! I'm outraged that people sue cities for their own errors. I've had plenty of spills... I blame only myself and that I knew fully well it could be dangerous. Since we don't live in a socialist society why is it OK for an individual to sue the whole for what is clearly result their own actions? I'm ALL FOR stopping this ridiculous ability of an individual to sue a city just for tripping on a crack in a sidewalk or riding a bike over a pot hole. There ought not be any question about it at all. It's the responsibility of each one of us. How dare this man, especially during tough times, and having to pay for his whatever... only makes less money to fix and repair problems for everyone else.
The Happy Medium August 03, 2012 at 08:10 PM
I agree with you Marshall. There will always be pot holes no matter how well streets are maintained. There will always be people who defer what is their own responsibility on to others. There seems to be a trend: rather than seeing that the U.S. has been at war overtly or covertly for decades... where everyone used to save rubber and scrap metal... turn lights out... save butter... have rationed everything... rather than pull in the belt on the waist a notch, they push for more. Rather than stop over development and increasing a town to 90,000 from the 30,000 we were in the 70's to the 60,000 it is today... developers push for more and it beats the hell out of our roads and budgets for them. Then all of a sudden people think it's their right to demand more and more for filling potholes... when they have not examined the cause. It's pretty lame of people to BE ABLE to sue a city for negligence when they have such microscopic vision. Look... if you read our Central Bank By-laws written by Nelson Aldrich and formed by JP Morgan, Warburg, etc. on Jeckyl Island... it's not long.... it says that we the people are liable for the investments made by owners of banks if they go bad. It says that our currency is LOANED to us with interest. It says that our taxes deposited in the Federal Reserves, can be used by those who own that bank (it's a privately owned institution not public or government). Says WE are responsible for their errors. Why not for potholes, and not the city?
The Happy Medium August 03, 2012 at 08:19 PM
What happened to the taxes is they are not commensurate with developers building malls, making deliveries, people building houses moving her to increase Petaluma from 30,000 in the 70's to 60,000 today and pushing for 90,000! People wanted Friedman's saying it will increase local business. I called Friedmans and only 10% of their merchandise is made in the U.S.A. How does that increase Local Biz. People were FOOLED by "family owned biz". Maybe one way to help feed the coffers of demand isn't to increase a tax, but call it a tithe, and every biz pays a % to local economy for every single item made offshore, and bill the manufacturer or distributor of such goods. How does THAT affect the rest of the economy? Instead of taxing the people, tax those who distribute foreign made for every bit... put it directly in to infrastructure. It's so stupid to fill pockets of high priced developers, call that making jobs for people when it is short-lived and benefits only some. If these malls are going to divert the natural flow of water and erode soils, create more wear and tear, invite more people... then they must pay for the privilege of their invasion and seduction of the ignorant who are clueless what they do. As for potholes, people ought to be responsible for their actions. There are ALWAYS going to be potholes no matter how well a city maintains roads and there are always going to be risk-takers who blame others for their actions.
The Happy Medium August 03, 2012 at 08:21 PM
If I were going to sue a city for some pot hole I ran in to... I would sue the city, have them come up with the money and then insist they put it back in to fixing roads. I fail to see how one person gets away with putting it on others for their own risk-taking and what goes with the territory. He sues the city because he can... and that loophole ought to be just game over.
Troy August 03, 2012 at 10:20 PM
Law Siuts, don't do anything but cost us more. We pay so much in taxes and yet there is no money to take care of the road, as well as take care of other things through out the cities, counties, and states. The only money I see being used is for those that work for the tax payers to be paid. Besides all the taxes we pay, where does the taxes from the gas pump go? Alot of money from Northern California, goes to Southern California, we need to keep the money in our area for things that need to be done. To sue someone for money does nothing but put things on hold, I had an accident on my bike back in the 90's due to a rain bur that I could not see that was between the road and a bike path; I had a talk with the police and fire department and the next day there was a road repair painting the rain bur white so it can be seen, and from that I have seen more rain bur's get painted.

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