Bicyclist will receive net verdict of $450,000 in personal injury lawsuit

Tuesday, October 28, 2008 | 11:40 p.m. CDT; updated 11:57 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, October 29, 2008

This article has been fixed to accurately describe Krysten Chambrot's injury and clarified to reflect the amount of the jury's award the plaintiff will receive.

COLUMBIA — A bicyclist who sued the City of Columbia and Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission following a 2005 accident, will receive $450,000 out of the $1.8 million awarded Tuesday evening in the comparative fault personal injury lawsuit.

The jury found the bicyclist, Krysten Chambrot, to be 75 percent at fault for the Aug. 18, 2005 accident at the intersection of College and Rollins Avenues involving two vehicles and a bicycle. According to the comparative fault formula, her percentage of fault will be proportionally deducted from the $1.8 million gross verdict.

The jury deliberated for 10 hours, returning the judgment at about 10:30 p.m. The verdict assessed the comparative fault of the defendants:

  • 13 percent fault to the City of Columbia and Michael Arens,
  • 12 percent fault to Judy Pope — the driver of the vehicle that first struck Chambrot,
  • zero percent fault to the transportation commission.

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

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

The question of whether the accident resulted from poor judgment or could have been prevented with proper safeguards was at the center of closing arguments Tuesday morning.

Chambrot's attorney, Donald Schlapprizzi, said 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.

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 for Arens, said 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, who programmed the traffic signal at College and Rollins in January 2005. She testified that the signal could not have changed in the way an expert for the plaintiff's side earlier indicated in his testimony.

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."

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Panama Red October 29, 2008 | 5:15 a.m.

What a bunch of crap!

(Report Comment)
bob wessler October 29, 2008 | 9:52 a.m.

I have followed this story since '05 when it first happened. I crossed that street many times on my own bicycle. Here's the first rule on riding a bike on public streets ... OBEY TRAFFIC SIGNALS ... hmmm, red light means NO GO! Amazing how someone can pull into oncoming traffic and be awarded almost $2M for being an idiot. I'm sorry for what happened to the girl physically, but a lack of judgment should not be awarded compensation AND find fault with persons who were obeying traffic signals.

(Report Comment)
Mary Anderson October 29, 2008 | 11:30 a.m.

I am to upset to respond to this at the moment! Panama Red, yes it is a "Bunch of crap" some very DEEP SH%T! You could have also had the guts to use your real name here. The City needs everyone's support in this mater! I hope that some day everyone of these "Jurors" find themselves in a similar situation! I am also glad to hear that others feel the same way I do! I have a friend who did not one thing wrong! They were hit by a repeat DWI offender who crossed over into their lane of traffic! They lost everything including their health, a leg with many more traumatic injuries than Chambrot. They were only able to get less that $30,000 for all their injuries which was spent on medical bills that had been owed for their care up to that point. No one could sue because the Double Yellow lines were not straight enough or bright enough or that there was no guard up in the middle of the road to prevent an accident? EVERYTHING IN THEIR LIFE, that they work hard to achieve was gone in a flash of a moment! This person was doing pretty good dealing with their life and being disabled as a result of the accident until they heard the results of this case which they had been following since it happened! It took the life and will to live right out of them and have given up since they heard the verdict last night! I know that there are many more victims with stories like this! I am sure that the Columbia Police Departments reputation here recently and their reporting of the accident did not help maters also! Sad state of affairs America! I hope that Krysten Chambrot feels good about what she has done to all the people involved here and the Citizens of Columbia, MO. It is funny Krysten, but I hope that you know all you did was create a job with big winnings for your attorney and the show he put on. Who do you think will get most of the money? I am sure that your parents will find some way to swindle and keep some of the money just like you have with Medicaid and or Medicare whom I am sure has paid for most of your care. You are a young woman and those juror's felt sorry for you that is all! Hold your head up as you walk down the street with a Prosthetic us Missourian's and Colombian's bought for you!

(Report Comment)
brian sutton October 29, 2008 | 11:41 a.m.

The story does not say that Krystin will GET any money. More likely than not she will be precluded from recovering any or most of the verdict because of the percentages of fault the jury found. Seems folks are awfully upset over one step in the legal process (a verdict) and ignoring the Judges future rulings, appeals and the law. Simmer down teapots!!!!!

(Report Comment)
Emily Sussman October 29, 2008 | 12:40 p.m.

Yeah, this whole case leaves me with a bad gut feeling. I empathize with the fact that she was permanently injured in the accident, but I also don't think it's fair that Columbia taxpayers should have to pay for what essentially boils down to the fact that she ran a red light and was hit by what happened to be a public utility truck owned by the city.

(Report Comment)
Mary Anderson October 29, 2008 | 12:42 p.m.

You are right Brian, this is not the end of the road and yes, Krysten has yet to receive any money. It is very hard to simmer down when you are missing body parts and have suffered the loss of everything in your life and have struggled for a few years after being told that there is nothing that can be done? BANG, the life you had is gone and you have to struggle and worry everyday from a wheelchair and can no longer run with your grand children or buy Christmas or Birthday gifts because you are forced to pay for medical bills that you played no part in except for waking up and finding yourself in that condition and situation. The GREED that follows from your Attorney, Insurance Companies, Lab bills, Hospital bills, Doctor bills, Collection Agencies for everyone I just mentioned ..............You see everyone around you profiting off of your suffering except for the one who needs it most? YOU! Then someone makes a mistake and runs a red light on their bicycle? The key word there is makes a MISTAKE! There are those whose only mistake was waking up after wards! Sorry for kicking and screaming, but it is all some of us have left to do!

(Report Comment)
Amber Hanneken October 29, 2008 | 2:15 p.m.

Mary Anderson, why don't you offer yourself as a source for this subject? Since you seem to know so much about the case.

(Report Comment)
Alicia Butler October 29, 2008 | 2:59 p.m.

It sounds like you guys do not believe the jury's finding that the city and the motorist were partially at fault for what happened to this young woman. I don't know what evidence the jury heard, maybe you know something I don't. Or maybe you do not believe that people who are responsible for injuring other people ought to be accountable for what they do. As for me--I believe if you harm someone else, you ought to take responsibility for it and if you won't do so on your own, then you take your chances that a jury will arrive at a verdict like this.
As long as you are being upset, you should at least be upset about the right facts. This young woman won't get $1.8 million - as the article makes clear, she will get $450,000 (maybe, if the verdict isn't overturned on appeal), due to the jury's finding she shared the blame for what happened to her. And as far as medicaid and medical bills, etc. - you should know that the federal government and most private health care providers always come and take their pound of flesh out of recoveries like this - typically at least 1/3 of whatever she gets. This young lady in the end will get her share of what SHE paid, what SHE lost, and what the jury found that SHE suffered due to the actions of other people.

Finally, to the person who commented about your friend whose life was ruined by others who were NOT held accountable for what they did: Isn't the problem that your friend DIDN'T have access to justice, and NOT that this woman did? In other words, if the defendants in this case were partly at fault, why should they get off the hook just because in the past some other people evaded responsibility for something they did wrong?

(Report Comment)
James Gambriell October 29, 2008 | 6:10 p.m.

I don't understand how someone can receive $450,000 when they are the primary reason for the accident in the first place. Let's make one thing clear. If she wouldn't have ran the red light in the first place, the injuries never would have happened. Pope should be 0% at fault. What are you going to do when some jumps out in front of you? My wife was T-boned by a pedestrian. There was NOTHING she could have done. The cops on the scene scolded the boy for not using a crosswalk which was only 50 foot away. The boy decided to run between stopped traffic and impacted my wife's truck at the rear fender? Personally, I think this bicycle accident should be the same thing. No fault for the people who did nothing wrong. If Chambrot can get money for her injuries when she was 75% at fault, then what about the mental anguish damage to Arens and Pope. They should counter sue for $2 mil. That would mean that since Chambrot was at 75% fault, they would each receive $750,000. They have to live with the fact that they hit and permanently injured someone when they did nothing wrong. I am tired of people in America not accepting responsibility for their actions and trying to get paid for something that was their fault to begin with. As for the DWI accident mentioned above, the drunken individual should have to pay for ALL damages. They were the only one breaking the law. Nothing else caused that accident except the lush that was behind the wheel. This country has gotten ridiculous about personal responsibility. Always trying to find fault with someone else. Man up and admit when your wrong, make amends and press on the best way you know how to. Why ruin others lives when you caused the problem in the first place.

(Report Comment)
Anton Berkovich October 29, 2008 | 9:56 p.m.

Could the drivers get away with counter suing for emotional distress? I know that if I hit a girl and caused her to lose her leg, I would be pretty emotionally distressed, especially since she was at 75% fault.

(Report Comment)
Mary Anderson October 29, 2008 | 10:38 p.m.

James I can only speak for one of the names you mentioned yet know both indaviduals would thank you for the things you said here. I thank you for the other things you said as for me and my family member. There are things I am not at liberty to say here as to why no other avenues were taken in that case. I am having to give of myself because of that and that is okay. These people on here may think and say what they will though I know the truth in both cases. Even if I could, the people who have such an opinion as you can see truth is not something they hear or are able to read.

Art would you walk away from a chance to maybe clear your name. This trail cost them as much if not more after the verdict! Do you not think that Krysten will proceed with a civil case now since their odds have greatly improved? We know that you are such a good Sumatran with a remark like that! Next break in class walk over to the school of law and ask them.

(Report Comment)

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