More on Almost Million dollar Bystander Cse
Even though one of the conditions of the bystander’s million dollar broken hip case was partial confidentiality you can find the original lawsuit here on the Your Missouri Courts site. Type in: Friend, Doris or type in case number 0716-CV13432 and Doris Friend et al v. Rolling Wheels (et al) comes up. Click on the case number then, in the menu bar above, Parties & Attorneys. Scroll down and you’ll find Motorcycle Safety Foundation. This confirm the MSF was the “national licensing organization”—as if there was any doubt. I spoke with Danny Thomas, the plaintiff’s attorney late last week. Here is what he had to say:
Note: Danny Thomas, of Humphrey, Farrington & McLain never referred to MSF as anything except in vague terms such as “anonymous defendant” or “national licensing organization” or the Basic RiderCourse as “the curriculum the school used.” However, since the Your Missouri Court site does identify MSF and that means the BRC I will use those terms in the following.
The school involved was Rolling Wheels Training Center and here’s the range—though according to a source, it’s been moved further east than it appears in the Google satellite photo. The range has a 40’ run-off—but immediately beyond the run-off area are parking spaces that are regularly is use. The range has a 3-degree slant sloping from north to south.
The crash occurred on Wednesday July 5, 2006 at 8:30 am in Exercise 2, Part III. The rider was riding a Honda Rebel that weighed 300 lbs (engine sized was not available). She had fallen in the same part of the exercise before she had the run-off. She rode south and downhill off the range towards the stores and traveled less than 100 feet from the range before hitting the car.
Doris Friend was just putting her drycleaning in her car when the student hit it so hard it raised up in the air and towards Friend. As it came down the car hit Friend knocking her over and breaking her hip. The student was also injured and also transported to the emergency room by ambulance but was not as seriously injured as Friend.
In this case, of course, the liability-waiver did not apply. After the suit was filed, there was not a great deal of cooperation on MSF’s part. During the discovery phase, Thomas repeatedly requested MSF make insurance claims on incident reports from 2002-2006 and that used the BRC. Thomas said MSF refused to turn them over and protested that in no other lawsuit had they been compelled to do so. The judge finally had to order MSF to release them.
Thomas first said they sent between 20,000 and 40,000. Only incidents at sites that had purchased MSF RiderCourse Insurance were included. All programs/sites that use another insurance carrier were not included.
“Not all of them,” Thomas said, “were injury crashes.”
MSF’s policy is that an incident report be filled out if there’s any property damage or injury—even if minor. According to the RiderCourse Insurance Plan brochure, MSF has a $25,000 self insured retention (SIR), commonly called a deductible) on each occurrence for liability. MSF pays up to that $25,000 directly without involving the insurance company.
Thomas didn’t know if incident reports below those limits were included.
Within a few days of Thomas receiving the incident reports—and before he another attorney had a chance to look more than a fraction of them—MSF’s attorneys contacted them asking for a settlement.
One of the conditions of the settlement was that all of the incident reports be returned immediately. An administrator of a fairly large program commented that it’s as if the huge settlement was more to hide what was in the incident reports than for the broken hip itself.
Thomas never had the opportunity to catalogue all the injuries or what kind they were. What he saw, though, disturbed him greatly.
Thomas said early on in the conversation that there had been seven deaths since 2002. At a later point in the conversation he once again said there had been seven deaths “since the current curriculum has been taught.”
I clarified that there had been six from 2002 on that I had discovered: Fenton, MO, Laconia, NH, Colorado Springs, CO, Valencia, CA, Kenosha, WI, and Honesdale, PA. He stopped me at that point—the one in Pennsylvania didn’t count as it was prior to the BRC. No, that one happened in Valley Forge in 1998, I said. There was another one in Honesdale, PA in 2007.
There was a stunned silence on the other end of the line and then he said he hadn’t known about that one. There was also a crash that resulted in quadriplegia two weeks later in Sugar Notch, PA, I added. If anything the silence was deeper, more shocked. He said he hadn’t known that either.
At which point I was a bit stunned—if he wasn’t counting either death in Pennsylvania—it could mean there are two other deaths that have so far been hidden from the motorcycling and rider education community—and the general public.
If there has been two more deaths, all eight occurred since 2002 and all eight deaths were in courses taught with student-centered, adult-learning instruction. Unfortunately, he couldn’t recall where those deaths occurred and he had to go on to another meeting. So far, a request for further information has not be responded to—but if it is, I’ll be sure to let readers know.
Thomas is appalled at what he has learned about rider training under this organization. He said he wanted the public to find out about the case, wanted people to know what they were getting into—though so far news of the case has only made it into Missouri Lawyers Weekly.
“It’s a horrible program,” he said. “Horrible.”