Landscaping company avoids paying $52 million in damages after deadly bike crash

Photo: John St John/FlickrPhoto: John St John/Flickr

A Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based landscaping company faced a $50 million plus lawsuit after a South Florida doctor crashed his bike into the back of the company’s landscaping truck and subsequently died from his injuries.

Dr. William Donley was 60 years old at the time when he crashed into the back of a parked E&S Landscaping truck. He died despite wearing a bike helmet. The plaintiff’s attorney William Gary argued that Donley was riding appropriately and was traveling at least 15 miles per hour.

“He was a stickler for details,” Gary said according to Courtroom View Network. “There’s no way on God’s earth that he would have just driven into the back of the truck. No way.”

Gary blamed the landscaping crew for blocking the sidewalk and bicycle lane as they took their lunch and accused them of adding a hazard cone to the scene of the accident after the incident.

In response, the defense pointed out that the truck’s parking spot was not officially a bike lane and it was the only suitable location to park while the crews were trimming hedges at a nearby property.

“It’s OK to avoid conflict with other traffic, and that’s what the men did,” said William Martin, the defense’s attorney. “If they would have parked further away or across the street, they would have created a whole host of other hazards.”

Martin blamed Donley for the accident explaining that there was a 500-foot long, level approach to the eight-foot wide, parked truck on a clear day.

“He could have seen the truck the entire time, if he looked,” he said. “There would have been no accident had Dr. Donley paid even slight attention and avoided this large, stationary vehicle that was parked directly in his path in broad daylight.”

Donley had ridden 26 miles without water on that hot Florida day and Martin suggested that dehydration and fatigue played a part in the cause of the crash.

“Unfortunately, Dr. Donley was exhausted and dehydrated, and didn’t or couldn’t pay attention,” he said.

After a 9-day trial, Gary requested $52.5 million for Donley’s widow in his closing argument.

“Not a dime less,” he said according to Courtroom View Network. “Thirty years of damages, 30 years of pain and suffering, 30 years of the sleepless nights, 30 years of being alone.”

Yet when it came to the jurors’ decision, they found that Donley was responsible for 70 percent of the crash and awarded $3 million to his widow. Despite Gary’s attempts to blame the landscaping crew of negligence, post-crash medical reports found Donley with symptoms of dehydration.

“(Donley) rode past an orange cone, straight into the back of the left side of the truck,” said Todd Ehrenreich, another attorney for the defense. “He was so dehydrated, he didn’t think rationally. He didn’t think smartly. He just rode.”

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