$1.45 Million Cook County Jury Verdict in Road Construction Bike Accident; Miles v. Tai Plumbing, LLC

Thomas Miles, age 54, commuted to work regularly by bicycle. He was riding his bike northbound on California Avenue in Chicago on July 14, 2008 in the marked bike lane when he came upon a patch of wet cement in the street. The defendant Tai Plumbing had dug a 3-foot-wide trench across the northbound lanes to connect water and sewer lines for a building being developed by Forte Construction. On the day of this incident, the Tai Plumbing workers had filled the trench in the street with cement and moved operations to the sidewalk area without covering the wet concrete.

The front wheel of his bike sank into the wet concrete and caused his bike to stop suddenly and flip Miles over the handlebars. He landed head-first on the pavement. Miles suffered spinal subluxation fractures of the neck at C2-3. The injury required a fusion operation. For two and a half months, Miles was unable to swallow, requiring a feeding tube. In addition, Miles suffered from an incomplete spinal cord injury, constant paresthesia in both arms from elbows to fingertips, spasticity in both hands and balance problems. Miles had more than $358,000 in medical bills related to these injuries. 

At trial, Miles argued that Tai Plumbing chose not to comply with the pubic way construction permit by failing to employ flagmen at the work site. In addition, it was alleged that in failing to supply clear and positive tracking control, Tai Plumbing was also negligent. There were no warning signs posted.

Miles contended that defendant Tai Plumbing was negligent in conducting operations during rush hour in violation of the construction permit. Tai Plumbing maintained that it had made sufficient visual cues to alert the plaintiff that he was entering into an active construction zone. There was a large cement truck parked in the parking lane as well as barricades and/or cones that should have alerted the bicyclist to alter his course. Defendant also said that it complied with the manual on uniform traffic control devices and  the City of Chicago Department of Transportation regulations. The jury’s verdict of $1,455,184 exceeded the defendant Tai’s insurance policy limits of $1 million. Forte Construction did not defend the case and was defaulted.

The jury was given a special interrogatory to answer which read:  “Was the negligence of plaintiff Thomas Miles more than 50% of the total combined negligence proximately causing his injury?”  The jury’s answer was: “No.”

Miles was held to be 10% at fault for his own injury. That reduced the jury’s verdict by that amount. Miles was represented by Chicago attorney Timothy I. McArdle. The demand to settle was $1 million before trial. The plaintiff’s counsel asked the jury to return the verdict for $3,400,000. The offer before trial by Tai Plumbing was $50,000. 

The jury’s verdict of $1,455,184 was made up of the following damages:

  • $322,552 for medical expenses;
  • $450,000 for loss of normal life;
  • $630,000 for pain and suffering;
  • $4,932 for lost income; and
  • $47,700 for disfigurement.

Thomas Miles v. Tai Plumbing, LLC, Forte Construction, Inc., 10 L 1264 (Cook County).

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling auto accidents and bicycle accidents for individuals and families for more than 37 years in and around Chicago, Cook County, and its surrounding areas, including Alsip, Orland Park, Arlington Heights, Berwyn, Chicago (Logan Square), Chicago (Wicker Park), Morton Grove, Hinsdale, Rosemont, Palatine, Midlothian and Chicago (Englewood), Ill.

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