San Diego paying out $1M in another cycling injury settlement

A man who suffered serious injuries to his face, jaw and teeth in a bicycle crash on La Jolla Shores Drive in 2016 will receive $1 million from San Diego under the terms of a negotiated settlement.

The settlement, which the City Council is scheduled to approve on Tuesday, covers medical expenses, loss of earnings and damage to the bicycle and cycling gear of Thomas Dorsey, who crashed after riding into a large pothole.

The payout comes nearly two years after San Diego paid nearly $5 million to a bicyclist who suffered severe head injuries after he was launched several feet by a damaged sidewalk in Del Cerro.

The payouts highlight what cycling advocates say is San Diego’s inadequate infrastructure for supporting cycling at a time when city officials are urging more residents to bike as an alternative means of commuting.

The city’s legally binding climate action plan requires the number of people cycling to work in the city’s densely populated neighborhoods to increase from about 2 percent to 6 percent by 2020, and then to 18 percent by 2035.

In addition, the City Council is scheduled to consider next month wiping out parking requirements for new housing projects in many neighborhoods based partly on the expectation that more residents will commute by bicycle.

The council in August approved a long-awaited plan to accelerate construction of bike lanes, reduce cycling injuries, encourage more people to commute by bike and crack down on reckless cyclists.

But critics said the plan lacks deadlines, or even timelines, for implementation.

The payout to Dorsey follows two other recent settlements the city has paid to people injured as a result of unrepaired streets and sidewalks.

In June, San Diego paid $1.7 million to a woman who suffered a shattered pelvis in a Segway crash on a section of crumbling and damaged street in La Jolla in 2015.

Three months before that, the city paid $1 million to settle a lawsuit over injuries caused by a damaged sidewalk in University Heights.

In Dorsey’s case, he was riding his bicycle westbound on a steep, upward stretch of La Jolla Shores Drive near La Jolla Shores Lane in October 2016 when he struck a pothole that was not readily visible and lost control of his bike.

The pothole was a “concealed trap” that wouldn’t have existed if the city had an adequate inspection system for its roads and an appropriate maintenance program, according to a lawsuit filed on his behalf in June 2017.

The suit says he suffered serious injuries to his head, face, mouth, neck and “upper and lower extremities” in the crash, which took place just before 1 p.m.

Before the settlement was reached, Superior Court Judge Joel Wohlfeil had scheduled a jury trial in the case that was set to begin Feb. 21.

The council, which unanimously approved the settlement in a session closed to the public on Jan. 15, is required to approve it a second time in open session on Tuesday.

Before agreeing to the settlement, attorneys for the city argued in court documents that Dorsey was “careless and negligent” and that he should have spotted the pothole in time to avoid it.

“The area of the alleged incident was in an exposed, conspicuous, open and/or obvious condition which would have been reasonably apparent to, and would have been anticipated by, a person exercising due care,” attorneys for the city wrote.

They also argued that city officials were not aware of the pothole before the incident.

david.garrick@sduniontribune.com (619) 269-8906 Twitter:@UTDavidGarrick

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