Friday, January 27, 2006

HB1190 v The 1994 Supremes

This, is a follow-up to this.

The bottom line: After today's research I remain firmly opposed to HB1190.

In 1994 two South Dakota cyclists sued each other after colliding. The arguments for each side are complex, but a quick summary of the collision is:
The accident occurred around 10pm after a 9:10pm sunset. It was dark. Apparently the cyclists were not aware of each others presence until they collided.
The cyclists were traveling in opposite directions on a curvy city street. Both were traveling downhill…quickly.
Cyclist A did not have a headlight.
Cyclist B “was on the wrong side of the geometric center of the road but was close to the perceived center.” – I tried to use my own words for this but couldn’t find a way to do it without implying that the cyclist was in the wrong lane, therefore at fault.
The cyclists collided on their right sides. Normal traffic flow would have them passing each other on their left sides.
Both of the riders suffered serious injuries, one suffered injuries that could not be repaired, resulting in practical loss of a limb.
(Local readers who’ve lived here for longer might recognize this accident.)

A quick summary of the case seems to be:
The trial court jury did not declare an award for either cyclist.
Both cyclists appealed.
In the appeal the Supreme Court wrote quite a lot about the law attempting to be changed by HB1190, SD Law 32-14-1.
The Supreme Court allowed that there were enough problems with the first trial to warrant a new trial.
Cyclist B’s argument in-part was that Cyclist A did not meet the requirement of SD Law 32-26-3, “…drivers of vehicles proceeding in opposite directions shall pass each other to the right, each giving to the other at least one-half of the main-traveled portion of the roadway as nearly as possible…”

I think it’s clear that Cyclist B was arguing that the other cyclist was negligent by taking too much of the road, causing the collision.

The trial court ruled that this law (32-26-3) did not apply to the case because a bicycle is not a vehicle under SD Law 32-14-1, “’Vehicle,’ a device in, upon, or by which any person or property is or may be transported or drawn upon a public highway, except devices moved by human power or used exclusively upon stationary rails or tracks; including bicycles and ridden animals.”

The Supreme Court majority opinion determined that the trial court ruled in error. They wrote that the language of 32-14-1 “specifically provided” that a bicycle is a vehicle.

The Supreme Court dissenting opinion was more fun in stating that “while this definition is not a paragon of clarity, bicycles are still clearly vehicles.”

It is apparent to me from this case, that rewriting 32-14-1 to exclude bicycles (which HB1190 wants to do) means that, in the case of a jury trial, laws governing vehicle rules of the road for cyclists will not apply, putting cyclists at a gross disadvantage against other vehicles, or in this case even other cyclists, in the courts.

The day I find myself being parted out at the bottom of Tomar hill by an errant DeVille, and my life insurer refuses to pay because I’m involving myself in risky behavior, I want my wife to have every advantage possible in the courts to ensure that her house gets paid for and my kids go to college. That includes being able to argue that my life insurer should pay my policy because that car ought to have been on the proper side of the road according to state law.

(It’s pretty ironic, I think, that this case happens to be between two cyclists.)

After today's research I remain firmly opposed to HB1190.

I remain grateful to the Progressive on the Prairie for providing me with the Supreme Court document that this post is based. Again, please realize, any revelation of stupidity in this post should be known to reveal my stupidity, not his.

1 comment:

nimbleboy said...

1994 Supremes? I think they broke up in like 1977 or so, dude!