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NYC Can Be Liable For Not Providing Helmets For Citi Bikes

An appellate court in New York recently held that a man who suffered brain damage after flipping his rented Citi Bike and landing on his head is free to make a claim against the City of New York that it was negligent in not providing helmets to riders.

The man, 75-year-old Ronald Corwin, crashed into a concrete wheel stop next to the Citi Bike docking station at East 56th Street and Madison Avenue in Manhattan. As a result, he developed traumatic nerve palsy and can no longer taste or smell. As his lawyer explained, "everything tastes like cardboard . . . It's terrible. He's lost the pleasure of tasting food and of literally smelling the roses".

Originally, Mr. Corwin blamed the City for placing an unpainted concrete wheel stop at the entrance to the Citi Bike station. Since he could not see the wheel stop, he ran into it with his front tire and the bike flipped. 

However, Mr. Corwin decided to add the helmet claim after the City's attorney told a federal judge that Mr. Corwin contributed to his own head injuries in not wearing a helmet. At the same time that the City claimed that Mr. Corwin was himself negligent in not wearing a helmet, it also claimed that it had no duty to provide helmets for Citi Bike riders.

Mr. Corwin's lawyers made the argument that the City was contradicting itself. "The point is they can't have it both ways. They can't say we didn't have a helmet but we don't provide helmets because we know that our City bike share programs is not going to work if we have a helmet law," stated the lawyer.

A lower court decided that it was too late after the incident to let Mr. Corwin add that claim. The appellate court disagreed. In siding for Mr. Corwin, the appellate court stated that, "petitioners [Mr. Corwin and his wife] only raised the helmet issue in response to the City's decision to assert an affirmative defense that petitioner's injuries would have been less severe had he worn one."

Furthermore, the court went on to explain that the City cannot argue that it would be prejudiced by the helmet claim where it raised the argument and Mr. Corwin is put in a position to rebut that defense.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a bicycle accident, contact the law firm of Louis Grandelli, P.C. We will give your case the individual attention it deserves. 

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