Cyclist will receive $450,000 in personal injury lawsuit

Wednesday, October 29, 2008 | 2:26 p.m. CDT; updated 10:47 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A bicyclist who sued the city of Columbia and Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission, among others, after a 2005 accident will receive $450,000 of the $1.8 million awarded Tuesday in the personal injury lawsuit.

The net verdict of $450,000 and the total damage amount were reached through a “pure comparative fault” theory, which the Missouri Supreme Court adopted in 1983. Under this theory, plaintiffs can still be awarded money even if they are found to be partly at fault, said Donald Schlapprizzi, the plaintiff's attorney.

The jury’s comparative fault verdict found the plaintiff, Krysten Chambrot, to be 75 percent at fault for the accident at the intersection of College and Rollins avenues involving Chambrot, on a bike, and two vehicles. According to the comparative fault formula, her percentage of fault will be proportionally deducted from the $1.8 million gross verdict.

“I’ve been doing this a long time, and I really believe in the system; it is exceedingly fair,” Schlapprizzii said.

Chambrot, then a 19-year-old MU student, was first struck by a vehicle driven by Judy Pope while crossing College Avenue. She was then thrown from her bicycle and hit and dragged by a Columbia Water and Light truck driven by Michael Arens. Pope and Arens were defendants in the case as well.

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

The jury assessed Arens’ and the city of Columbia’s percentage of fault at 13 percent and Pope’s at 12 percent. That leaves the city and Pope with a $234,000 and $216,000 payout, respectively.

But Jeff Parshall, attorney for the city of Columbia and Arens, said he isn’t finished evaluating the verdict, which he and his clients found disappointing.

“We thought the evidence showed it was (Chambrot’s) fault entirely, but obviously the jury disagreed,” he said.

Schlapprizzi said that though he was pleased with they jury’s methods, he would like to have seen them award a higher total damage amount. He sought around $4 million in damages, citing Chambrot’s medical bills totaling $330,000 and future medical costs.

“I thought the jury did a great job analyzing the case, and I’m not fussing with their decision,” he said. “However, I would like to have seen a higher percentage of fault to the city, and I was disappointed in the totality of damages.”

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