Jury enters deliberations in bicycle crash lawsuit

Tuesday, October 28, 2008 | 5:50 p.m. CDT; updated 11:33 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, October 28, 2008

COLUMBIA — The question of whether a 2005 accident at College Avenue and Rollins Street resulted from poor judgment or could have been prevented with proper safeguards was left with jurors in Boone County Circuit Court on Tuesday.

About 12:30 p.m., the jury began deliberations in the personal injury lawsuit filed by the parents of an MU student, Krysten Chambrot, against the City of Columbia and Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission, among others.

Chambrot's attorney, Donald Schlapprizzi, argued that inaccurate police reports and conflicting statements from witnesses did not paint a fair picture of what caused the 2005 accident.

“The only person, as I see it, who says the same thing today as they did in 2005, is Krysten Chambrot,” Schlapprizzi said in his closing argument.

On Aug. 18, 2005, Chambrot was crossing College Avenue when she was first struck by a car driven by Judy Pope and thrown from her bicycle. She was then hit and dragged by a Columbia Water and Light truck driven by Michael Arens. Both drivers are named as defendants.

The accident resulted in injuries that required the amputation of Chambrot’s left leg above the knee. She is an MU graduate student and an employee of the Missourian. 

Schlapprizzi argued that Arens changed his story, saying that on the day of the accident Arens told police he didn’t know anything was wrong until a bystander told him to back up his truck. Schlapprizzi said this contradicts Arens’ testimony, in which he said he saw the bicycle fly up at him.

He also argued that Pope did not do enough to avoid the accident and that the transportation commission did not allow enough time in the traffic signal for Chambrot to safely exit the intersection.

Schlapprizzi’s voice rose as he accused MU police of not conducting a fair investigation, treating Chambrot like “just another college kid on a bicycle.”

Jeffery Parshall, attorney for the city and forArens, argued that witnesses have confirmed that Chambrot crossed the intersection on a red light.

“We are looking at a case of a good person who made a bad judgment,” he told the jury.

He also pointed to testimony by Transportation Department project manager Nicole Hood that showed the signal could not have changed in the way an expert for the plaintiff's side said it did. Hood programmed the traffic signal at College and Rollins in January 2005.

Chambrot saw southbound vehicles stopped  on College Avenue and decided to cross the intersection based on this observation, Parshall said.

“She didn’t look at the lights, and seeing that un-movement, she said to herself, ‘It’s OK to go,’ but it wasn’t,” he said.

Pope’s attorney, James Morrow, said Pope was operating her vehicle properly, had a green light and could not have prevented or avoided the accident. She and Arens simply found themselves in an unfortunate situation, he said.

“They were two people traveling down a roadway when something happened,” he said. “They were doing something people do every day.”

Check back with the Missourian for updates to this story.

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