A bicycle accident on a multi-use path along Osborn Park in Scottsdale precipitated a year-long threat of a pending law suit against the city and its employees causing City Council to pump the brakes in efforts to resolve the litigation.
City Council agreed on May 18 to pay $96,000 to resolve the claim, which is $26,000 less than the claimant originally asked to cover mounting medical bills, including alleged pain and suffering, permanent injuries, lost wages, future medical bills in addition to any and all related fees and costs regarding a bike accident that occurred on May 9, 2020.
Approving the settlement was recommended to avoid associated costs, uncertainties, and risks of proceeding to trial in the case if the associated costs far outweigh the amount of the negotiated settlement, according to a city staff report, naming William Edwards who rode his bicycle on the multi-use path along Osborn Park in Scottsdale.
When his bike tire allegedly got caught in what was noted as an expansion joint in the sidewalk, the report described how Mr. Edwards sustained injuries including head trauma and fractures to his right elbow requiring two surgeries after being ejected from his bike.
So far, he has incurred approximately $122,000 in medical bills and his claim also includes a permanent impairment to his right arm. If the case were to proceed to trial, according to the staff report, then Mr. Edwards would likely ask the jury for up to about $400,000 in monetary damages.
Although the report said the city has asserted its defense that the “condition was open and obvious and that the city had no notice of any dangerous condition in the path, it is important to note that the gap in the sidewalk was parallel to traffic and over an inch wide,” which would provide sufficient space for a bicycle wheel to be caught as Mr. Edwards described.
A notice of claim was filed, and the parties are said to have agreed to participate in settlement negotiations before Mr. Edwards’ attempts of filing a lawsuit. The settlement, handled in-house by the City Attorney’s Office and the Risk Management Department, is noted to be in the best interests of the city.
The proposed settlement will be taken from funds available in the city’s risk management operating budget, to pay Mr. Edwards to avoid spending an additional $130,000 or more in costs and attorneys’ fees in defense if the case made it to trial.
The proposed settlement closes the claim, according to the report, adding that it will eliminate the need for additional staff resources from the legal department, risk management and other departments to be spent on this case.
Meanwhile, the proposed $96,000 settlement may be included in the city’s primary property tax rate for the next year. The eligibility of settlement and judgment payments possibly included in the city’s primary property tax rate is based upon an Arizona Attorney General opinion, the report cited.
The city of Scottsdale reportedly has a long-standing practice of including paid tort settlements equal to or greater than $20,000 in the city’s primary tax rate to reimburse the self-insured fund to pay for claims.