Q: What happened?
A: On March 16, 2002 at approximately 3:10pm a mountain bike rider was riding on the Red Road (blacktop loop) in a counter-clockwise direction (the wrong way or "backwards"). She was racing with her head down, not looking ahead when she hit the yellow post gate causing damage to her vertebrae. The Jury awarded her 2.9 million.
Q: How is it possible that the rider was not determined to be at fault.
A: The jury, based on the testimony, decided that the rider was only 30% and fault and the MDC was 70% at fault for not having signs and warnings to make riders aware of the danger of the closed gate. Most cyclists are hard pressed to see how the rider was not 100% liable as the rider was riding "backward" ( there are 4 bike lane signs painted on that short section that is west of the gate), and was riding with head down (unsafe riding position especially where visibility is limited). This is a shared use facility and faster moving individuals have to be mindful of walkers/joggers/kids/dogs. Since we were not at the trial, we just don't know what transpired to have the jury come to this conclusion.
Q: What is the liability loophole all about?
A:Conway v. Wilton: When Amy Conway, a high school tennis player, twisted her knee in a match in Wilton many years ago, she touched off a protracted legal battle which resulted in the the State Supreme Court overturning a decision it made in another case in 1992, and gave Ms. Conway the right to sue Wilton. The decision also stripped Connecticut's towns and cities from their immunity from personal injury lawsuits involving public recreation. Private land owners with trails running through their property are still protected by the law, as Municipalities on others states such as Mass. So the loophole is not just for the MDC properties but for all the Municipalities in Connecticut. To Make matters worse, the judge in the MDC case determined that the MDC was unlike the Municipalities and was not protected by the current laws that provide "some" protection to the Municipalities.