An attorney representing an MU student severely injured on a bicycle in an accident with two vehicles said the first motorist who struck the cyclist has changed her story about whether the light she saw was red or green.
The assertion was part of the opening statements that began Tuesday in a personal injury lawsuit filed against the city of Columbia and the Missouri Highway and Transportation Commission, among others. The case stems from the accident at the intersection of College and Rollins Avenues in 2005.
The plaintiff, Krysten Chambrot — then a 19 year-old MU student — was struck by a vehicle driven by Truman Veterans Hospital employee Judy Pope, who is also named as a defendant. Chambrot was then hit and dragged by a city truck driven by Michael Arens, a Columbia Water and Light employee, the final defendant in the case.
The accident, which occurred on Aug. 18, 2005, resulted in the amputation of Chambrot’s left leg above the knee. Her right leg was mangled and her jaw was broken.
Donald Schlapprizzi, a St. Louis-based attorney representing Chambrot, argued that she began crossing east through the intersection on a green light, but while in the intersection, the light changed to red.
Schlapprizzi told the jury that on the day of the accident, Pope said she had a red light as she drove north on College Avenue, but that she has since changed her story and will testify she had a green light all the way.
He also claimed that an “all red clearance” policy, in which a delay in light sequences that allows bicycle and pedestrian traffic to exit an intersection, was not in use. Schlapprizzi told the jury that publications that the transportation commission subscribes to advocate for such delays in high-bicycle traffic areas.
Schlapprizzi also the jury that the plaintiff will ask for a substantial amount of money, citing medical bills exceeding $330,000 and the extensive amount of money Chambrot will need for a lifetime of medical care.
But Jeffery Parshall, the attorney representing Arens and the city, argued in his opening statement that the evidence will show Chambrot crossed the intersection based on the movement of traffic, not the light.
He said that witnesses, including Pope and Arens, will testify that traffic going south on college avenue had a red light; traffic going north, the direction in which the defendants were traveling, still had a green light.
Parshall also argued that a transportation commission traffic engineer will prove the "theory" of light sequences suggested by the plaintiff is not possible.
Attorneys were instructed by Judge Douglas Long Jr. not to discuss the case outside of court, Parshall said after court adjourned for the day.
Attorney James Morrow, representing Judy Pope, echoed many of the same arguments as Parshall and also emphasized that Pope’s sight of Chambrot was blocked by a van in the northbound left turn lane of College Avenue. Morrow said that Pope spotted something through the windshield of the van that caused her to brake, but it was too late, and she struck Chambrot.
Zachary Carthwright, representing the transportation commission, did not give an opening statement.
Chambrot is currently an MU graduate student and an employee of the Missourian. Her parents were present at Boone County Courthouse for opening statements.
The 14-person jury is made up of seven men and seven women. Jury selection began at 9 a.m. Tuesday and concluded at 3:30 p.m.
Testimony for the case will begin at 9 a.m. Wednesday.