Attorneys for the bicyclist argued that Standard Parking’s valets routinely took an illegal shortcut across two traffic lanes of Eighth Avenue. In the crash, Thyce Colyn suffered a traumatic brain injury and other injuries that limit his mobility, according to his lawyer.
A jury awarded $38 million Thursday to a bicyclist severely injured four years ago when he was hit in downtown Seattle by a Standard Parking valet driver.
Attorneys for the bicyclist, Thyce Colyn, 51, argued during the trial that Standard’s valets routinely took an illegal shortcut across two traffic lanes of Eighth Avenue, and that no safety training was provided.
The incident happened on Eighth Avenue, near the Washington State Convention Center
Colyn suffered a traumatic brain injury and other injuries, including a shattered hip, that limit him to walking short distances using crutches, attorney David Beninger said.
“He is going to have another four or five future operations,” the lawyer said. Medical bills were $427,000 as of mid-2015 and were expected to mount, the lawsuit said.
A King County Superior Court judge decided Standard Parking was fully liable, while the jury determined the award amount to Colyn and his wife, Beninger said.
Local attorneys for Chicago-based Standard Parking could not be reached for comment Thursday night.
The company argued that Colyn was partly responsible because he didn’t see and react sooner to the crossing car, according to a trial brief from the plaintiff. Also, the company disputed the extent and cost of injuries, it said.
Claims in bicycle-involved crashes can reach millions, but this one far exceeds others locally. This year, Mercer Island reached a $7.25 million settlement in the case of Margarete Chenoweth, who fell while cycling downhill over a rain-diversion bump, and was paralyzed. The city of Seattle agreed to pay $3.5 million, and a flooring company paid additional money, in a settlement to the family of Sher Kung, killed when the company’s truck hit her while making a left turn from Second Avenue downtown.
But the Eighth Avenue case differs, because it alleged ongoing unsafe practices — and raises safety questions that might apply to fleets and valets elsewhere.
Standard is part of SP+, a publicly-traded corporation that reported $129 million gross profit through the first nine months of this year.
Valets in Seattle shuttled cars belonging to visitors at the Grand Hyatt Hotel to the garage at the nearby Olive 8 residential tower, where more room was available, Beninger said. They drove from the Olive 8 across Eighth Avenue into a surface parking lot, and used alleys, instead of making a longer trip on streets and four intersections, according to plaintiff’s court documents.
“This kind of stuff was going on the entire time they were having the valets,” Beninger said Thursday night.
Colyn was riding north, in the right lane, at 4 p.m. on Oct. 8, 2012, from his job in Sodo to home in Ravenna. The lane was marked by “sharrows” — white bicycle-shaped icons — designed to alert people to expect bikes.
The valet, 21, was bringing a car from the Olive 8 across the northbound one-way street, perpendicular to traffic, and didn’t see the cyclist, to his right, according to court documents. He was cited for failure to yield the right of way.
The shortcut saved time, when hotel customers wanted their cars, Beninger said.
“They (Standard) didn’t direct them to do it, they just never stopped them from doing it,” he said.
A trial document indicates expert witnesses discussed whether Colyn could have avoided the crash. His lawyers said based on other cases, a reasonable time to react, for purposes of legal liability, would be at least four seconds.
“We put our faith in the jury in hopes of protecting other bicyclists and to encourage all companies to obey the rules and use safe practices,” said a statement by his Thyce Colyn’s wife, Amy Colyn.
Colyn was a traffic-signal electrician for the Seattle Department of Transportation and has returned to work on modified duty, according to his lawyers.