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Family of USU cyclist killed in slackline accident files lawsuit

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  • dtday2003 Lithia, FL
    May 1, 2014 5:48 p.m.

    What good will suing the other students do? They don't have any insurance that would cover their portion of $2 million. I understand the grief of the family, but if they win then these 3 students' financial lives are ruined. I'm pretty sure they learned their lesson that day not to put up a slackline where others might come in contact with it. I'm sure there is not a day that goes by that this man's death doesn't haunt these people. Adding financial stress on them does nothing to heal anyone. And if the family ever receives their $2 million, will that heal them? We are too quick to litigate and slow to forgive in this country. I hope the family can find a way to forgive them.

  • happymomto9 Saratoga Springs, UT
    May 1, 2014 5:59 p.m.

    i agree with dtday2003
    besides how likely is it that the $2mil earned over his lifetime would have been given to his parents. not likely!

  • Motcrew Sandy, UT
    May 1, 2014 6:50 p.m.

    First thought is who is responsible if nobody has taken accountability.? Knowing some background on aspects of life one would imagine an emergency room visit of such detrimental damages to range at least $30,000 and up. Add in transportation and funeral costs could at least $8,000 and up from there. If the school or nobody else has taken care of these costs I would imagine next of kin getting the bill. I for one do not think the family should have to fork out that money. They weren't at fault. I heavily get the impression things were taken out of context and the family holds not animosity toward the students at all. If the property belongs to a school with regulations and no regulations have been made in place for safety after such an easily preventable accident then I believe accountability should be sought towards the school in the family's best interest.

  • DanO Mission Viejo, CA
    May 1, 2014 7:14 p.m.

    Motcrew, families end up paying the expenses for their deceased loved ones all the time even when not at fault. How about the son who road his bike at high speeds down a grassy hill in the middle of a potentially crowded park-like setting? While it's very sad that he died, certainly he had some responsibility for his own actions. He could have just as easily hurt someone else. Do we always need someone else to tell us when something might not be safe when common-sense should tell us that?

  • In but not of Lehi, UT
    May 1, 2014 7:15 p.m.

    This is simple Civil Procedure. The students must be named, but won't have to pay. The University will settle this out.

  • Arizona Reader Gilbert, AZ
    May 1, 2014 7:17 p.m.

    Was the rope across a bike path???

  • Ryan J Bozeman, MT
    May 1, 2014 7:50 p.m.

    My understanding is that the rope was not across a bike path but rather between two trees on Old Main Hill. The biker left the pavement to shortcut through the trees and that is where the accident occurred. My heart goes out to the families of all those involved. It would be great if the University shouldered some of the financial responsibility to pay for the financial burden associated with the funeral etc. However, I feel that the responsibility for safety while riding a bicycle lies with the rider and the University should not be held responsible to foresee all possible scenarios that could end in injury or death.

  • Austin Coug Pflugerville, TX
    May 1, 2014 7:55 p.m.

    I feel for the loss for the family of this biker. It was an unfortunate and fluky event. However, i am disappointed that they are choosing to find someone to blame and hoping to collect millions in the process. Unfortunately, this is becoming the norm.

  • Reader81 SLC, UT
    May 1, 2014 7:55 p.m.

    If the university is sued, ultimately the thousands of students who attend there will be affected by the lost money. This was a terrible accident, and for healing on all parts, forgiveness is required. $2 million dollars won't fix the damage and won't change the past, nor will it heal the future. Now the parents are extending the pain by trying to punish others. Also, if hitting the rope immediately severed the trachea, the student must have been going extremely fast in an area that had many people in it (i.e. setting up for an outdoor movie, the rope walkers themselves).

  • RR_Xing San Diego, CA
    May 1, 2014 8:25 p.m.

    USU's bicycle policy can be found online: "The use of bicycles, skateboards, and in-line skates shall be allowed only as a means of transportation on walkways and other vehicular travelways of USU. Anyone using a bicycle, skateboard, or in-line skates on USU property shall give right of way to any pedestrian and shall travel at a reasonable, safe, and prudent speed."

    If the student who died was riding on the lawn and not a "walkway" or "other vehicular travelway", and was not riding "at a reasonable, safe, and prudent speed" this will be a tough case to win.

  • Mom of Six Northern Utah, UT
    May 1, 2014 8:39 p.m.

    As a former Aggie, I can say that Old Main Hill is not set up to be biking at that high of a speed in the first place. The paths on old main are WALKING paths and are not set up for someone biking as such a high rate of speed.

  • ManInTheMiddle SANDY, UT
    May 1, 2014 9:11 p.m.

    Like money is going to help......
    Greed won't solve your problems.

  • DN Subscriber Cottonwood Heights, UT
    May 1, 2014 9:22 p.m.

    No matter what type of accident, there will always be some lawyer who tells grieving relatives that they might win millions of dollars (and of course, teh lawyer will get about a third of that for his troubles).

    In my mind, I cannot see that this is a case about justice, or punishing illegal conduct, or preventing future illegal actions. I can only see greed exploiting sorrow.

    Accidents happen, and sometimes people do stupid, but not illegal things, such as stringing slacklines, or riding bikes at unsafe speeds in unauthorized areas. Not everything should result in lawsuits.

  • JGC WVC, UT
    May 1, 2014 10:23 p.m.

    The sad thing about this whole mess, is that there was an event the other week or so to commemorate this young man who had lost his life, and now the family is going to try and extort money from the boys who set up the rope, as well as the University. The deceased was in violation of the school bicycle policy, by taking the short cut down the hill, as a result his family is now trying to claim that the school, and other students are fully responsible for his mistake.

  • trying2 be... West Jordan/US, UT
    May 1, 2014 10:53 p.m.

    I am totally disheartened by the decision to take this action. I was so impressed by the way you dealt with this tragedy. And by the follow up - to knock our door and extend the hand of friendship in the wake of shared sorrows. I would certainly hope that Utah State's insurance helped cover expenses. That would be fair and expected, but to go to this excess is not right. And to destroy three young men's lives, more so than the tragedy already has?? This just reopens the wounds that had appeared to be healed for you. Please reconsider this action! I had looked up to you, and expect to do so again - but this cannot be. You once asked, "Is it really possible that not forgiving is worse than the sin itself?" I'm not sure what your opinion was at the time, but in answering this question you will find answers. You deserve more than 2 million dollars, peace is worth more - but the only way to obtain that peace now and in the future is to abandon this action and rise above it.

  • Funnion Hyde Park, UT
    May 2, 2014 12:32 a.m.

    If the family is looking to enact some measure of justice upon the individuals involved, I can personally attest that they have already undergone serious emotional trauma. As a neighbor and personal friend to two of the three individuals named, I can say that they simply need an opportunity to move on with their lives, and that continuing to bring up this seriously traumatic experience for all of them does serious harm. The feelings of guilt and horror at the situation seriously messed up even just the day-to-day functionality of these guys, and required some pretty major counseling.

    Yes, it was a tragedy. And yes, we all want the family to feel at peace. But this method of lashing out at the individuals involved and the University is only causing further (and I think unnecessary) pain for all parties.

  • K Mchenry, IL
    May 2, 2014 4:51 a.m.

    I think it's ridiculous. It was a freak incident. The students didn't leave it tied up forever. They were still there and not done using it. I think the students who put up the line are as responsible as the biker who did not and could not stop in time. You don't walk above paved area. How would they expect a bike to come between those trees? How would they know you couldn't see the line in time even if it were over a path. All this will do is outlaw one activity and perhaps require bikes only on paths? Heck, a lawyer might say outlaw bikes on property all together.

    Perhaps the lines could be altered to stand out more?

  • loraleechoate Logan, UT
    May 2, 2014 6:06 a.m.

    I live in Logan. This was a tragedy for the community. I know none of the parties involved but I DO know what it is like to lose a child. No one was responsible but if they had been, it would have been easy for the anger I felt to rain down on their head.

    It would have temporarily felt good but it would not have been detrimental for me in the end.

    I'll say as compassionately as I can that I don't think this is a wise course of action. This will hamper, if not destroy the lives of three people who I truly do not think could have possibly known the tragedy of what would happen. I don't presume to know how these kids feel but my guess is they will be haunted.

    He was not on a bike path.I do not see any more amount of reckless behavior in the actions of setting up a line like that then riding your bike off path on a steep hill at a speed that would sever a trachea on impact.

    I mainly hope for personal peace and reconciliation comes to all parties involved.

  • md Cache, UT
    May 2, 2014 6:05 a.m.

    Ambulance chasers in America believe that accidents are golden opportunities for money. Just listen to the commercials played all day..."Have you been injured in an accident?"

    Accidents happen. The kid was riding his bike too fast in a tree filled area. He died. Nobody was at fault except for him.

    If 2 million dollars is awarded for this case, then the people of Utah end up paying this family for their kid's negligence. We shouldn't even have to defend such a frivolous lawsuit. The lawyers who filed this should be fined.

    I hope they put me on the jury.

  • On the other hand Riverdale, MD
    May 2, 2014 6:23 a.m.

    Nobody wants to tell grieving parents that their kid did something stupid, but honestly, which is the worse assumption: that it's safe to set up a rope between two trees on a grassy, tree-covered hill, or that it's safe to race down that same hill on your bike? Obviously neither party anticipated the other, but I hardly think that makes the surviving party liable for $2 million. I hope they find a way to settle this one out of court.

  • Prodicus Provo, UT
    May 2, 2014 6:38 a.m.

    Everyone here seems to think it's perfectly OK to leave unattended death traps around as long as the only things killed are cyclists, because cyclists aren't people. The reaction is the same every time someone else's irresponsible actions- usually a driver's - kill a cyclist. The prejudice around here makes me sick.

    dtday2003, it's pretty absurd to say that every time someone's negligent action kills somebody they should not face any consequences because being "haunted by the death" absolves them of any other responsibility.

    DanO, he could not have "just as easily have hurt someone else." He was going fast but by all accounts not so fast that he had no control over his bike. He would have been capable of avoiding hitting any people or obstacles he was capable of seeing. But a slackline at only a few inches from eye level presents a less than 1/16 inch profile that is functionally invisible.

  • Kristy Puyallup, WA
    May 2, 2014 7:20 a.m.

    TO: Red Corvette SACRAMENTO, CA
    The bike rider was also negligent in that he was riding at a high speed off the designated bike path. I'm sorry for the loss to the family of the biker but the biker was at fault for riding his bike in an area not designated or safe for biking... both were not thinking of the consequences!

  • Prodicus Provo, UT
    May 2, 2014 7:22 a.m.

    Slackliners should know a few basic things they can do to avoid endangering people. Neglecting those is negligent. USU allowing slacklining in a public space without basic precautions might also be negligent.

    Mostly these rules go unwritten. But when slackliners form organizations they write them.

    UK Slackline Association:

    8. Slacklines should be attended at all times. DO NOT leave any line unattended without the land owners permission and take reasonable precautions to protect the slacklines from use from the general public.
    9. The area in which you are slacklining and the equipment you are using should be clearly visible to people. We would recommend the use of wind dampeners/visual markers on slacklines, in particular when using longer lines.

    Swiss Slackline Federation:

    b. Longlines and jumplines should be clearly marked to ensure their visibility to every person in the surrounding (the marks can also serve as wind-stoppers).
    c. In case someone is walking on the line or if longlines are setup at low heights, they must be attended at all time by a second slackliner. When no one is walking it, if the longline is setup high enough it is not of danger for pedestrians and cyclists.

  • DanO Mission Viejo, CA
    May 2, 2014 8:04 a.m.

    Prodicus, how do we know he had control over his bike? In 2012, a cyclist going down a hill killed a pedestrian in San Francisco. Facts are, as others had pointed out, he was riding his bike where he shouldn't have been.

  • JOANOFARC SAN LUIS OBISPO , CA
    May 2, 2014 8:20 a.m.

    Why would a person be cycling at a high rate of speed where people are congregated? fast enough to sever your windpipe?

  • smokejumper SLC, UT
    May 2, 2014 8:23 a.m.

    Slackliners only put the lines up in high-traffic areas where they can be seen. If they had to do it off in a corner they wouldn't do it. When you put up a hazard in a high-traffic area you have a responsibility to warn others. Would a reasonable person walking or riding a bike assume that a rope/strap would be stretched between two trees at chest height and not have any warning? No. Should a reasonable person who stretches a rope/strap between two trees in a high-traffic area assume that someone might walk, run or ride into it? Yes. Accidents are preventable.

  • bushkid Parowan, UT
    May 2, 2014 8:50 a.m.

    The way these things work, there will almost always be a negotiated settlement between the parties. This may have not been a bike path, but it can be determined if it was an area where bikes were commonly ridden. The trend is to teach that no one is responsible for his/her actions.. that society or some corporation is to blame.. but taking personal responsibility is what produces considerate citizens and actually produces changes in behavior.

  • TripleCrown Santa Ana, CA
    May 2, 2014 8:57 a.m.

    I find it noteworthy that the Slackline Assoc. Code of Conduct quoted by Prodicus, nor the rest of the guidelines available online, make mention of any recommended height for slacklines nor recommendations about bright colors to increase visibility. If slacklines were florescent green or orange they would be easier to see. The stock photo accompanying this article shows a slackline a few inches off the ground. What is the purpose or advantage to installing one at chest height? Wouldn't this subject those using the slackline to a higher risk of injury when (not if) they fall? I realize that even if the slackline had been only been a foot or so off the ground, it would still have probably thrown Eric from the bike, perhaps causing different injuries, but it may have been easier to see, especially if it were brightly colored. My heart goes out to the Anderson, Bladen, Burger, and Bell families.

  • ImpartialObserver Logan, UT
    May 2, 2014 9:23 a.m.

    Before jumping to any conclusions, everyone should go to Google maps and take a look at a street view of "Old Main Hill, Logan UT." Also, do a search for "USU Bike Plan" on Google. You should be able to find a PDF that was produced in 2011 that talks about a variety of biking-related issues. On page 7 you will see a campus bike map that shows bike paths and other biking information. Pages 8-12 also provide relevant information. The key determinant of who is at fault will depend the signage that is around Old Main Hill.

    Scenario 1: No signage that clearly stated that Old Main Hill was a no biking zone (or a "dismount zone"). USU will likely/potentially be at fault.

    Scenario 2: Old Main Hill had signage that clearly stated that Old Main Hill was a "slow zone." USU will potentially be at fault.

    Scenario 3: Old Main Hill had signage that clearly stated that Old Main Hill was a "dismount zone." USU will not (and should not) be at fault.

    Determining what the "slack liners" should/should not have done is hard. It really depends on what Old Main Hill was typically used for.

  • environmental idiot Sanpete, UT
    May 2, 2014 9:26 a.m.

    I feel sorry for the family's loss... but that doesn't justify making someone else's life miserable over an accident that was just as much their fault as the others involved.

  • Linus Bountiful, UT
    May 2, 2014 9:37 a.m.

    I knew a family who lost a daughter in a tragic traffic accident. They sued and won a large sum of money. Then they tragically lost the rest of their family to the influence and consequence of having that money. There is no good that can come from vengeance; from harm inflicted on others; from extravagance purchased at such a price; from reducing the priceless memory of a lost loved to a worldly "value."

    We collected a modest sum of life insurance when our son was killed in an accident. We just couldn't bring ourselves to spend that money, brought to us at such a price. Instead, we reserved it for the support of several sibling missionaries in their missionary service.

    My advice is "let it go." You will eventually see the blessing of doing so. You have a choice: your grieving process will result in peace or guilt. Choose wisely.

  • Tumbleweed Centerville, UT
    May 2, 2014 10:15 a.m.

    @dtday2003

    "What good will suing the other students do? They don't have any insurance that would cover their portion of $2 million. I understand the grief of the family, but if they win then these 3 students' financial lives are ruined."

    Actually, DT, your assumption about insurance may be wrong. Most people don't realize it, but homeowners' insurance may cover students temporarily living away from home for their acts of liability. Of course, policy language may differ, but assuming these college kids were not insured could be a big mistake for the attorney handling the claim of the deceased biker.

  • DanO Mission Viejo, CA
    May 2, 2014 11:03 a.m.

    ImpartialObserver, you missed the scenario where the cyclist wasn't riding on the designated path shown in the document you referred to. It clearly shows the bicycle path as being the paved walk running diagonally. According to the USUPD Chief the student was riding down the grass through the trees.

  • Cinci Man FT MITCHELL, KY
    May 2, 2014 11:31 a.m.

    I learned years ago when, as a bishop, I watched a family go after another family in hopes of destroying them after they felt that they had been wronged. The wronged family lost their friends because of the incessant talking badly about the wrong-doers. They could not see how it was affecting the loving Christ-like character they cherished until one day they woke up to what they had done to themselves. After moving away, forgiving, and making a new start, they came full circle and are well again. Forgiveness and moving ahead with firmness in Christ will heal all wounds. Nothing will bring bad the loss of a loved one, but Christ can bring peace, which is what they lack in this case. Chrst is the Way.

  • ImpartialObserver Logan, UT
    May 2, 2014 11:42 a.m.

    DanO- There is a big difference between specifically prohibiting bikes and having a designated bike lane, so liability will depend on whether or not biking was clearly prohibited. If it was clearly prohibited on Old Main Hill, then it is unlikely that USU will be liable. If it wasn't clearly prohibited, then there is a chance that they will be liable (no guarantee, but there is definitely a chance). That is why each scenario focused on whether or not there was signage and did not focus on the fact that he wasn't riding on the designated bike path (which is on the south side of Old Main Hill).

  • ulvegaard Medical Lake, Washington
    May 2, 2014 2:20 p.m.

    I would always tend to avoid a law suit of this type. I don't think that money can ever compensate for such a loss. I think that money can lessen the burden of incurred expenses - such as hospital; or unfortunately, burial expenses. Beyond that, I think the money becomes a reminder that something happened that was tragic.

    I am not aware of local codes, but it would seem common sense that some sort of flags should have been attached to the line -- something that made it more visible. When hauling loads that extend behind my vehicle more than four feet, I am required to attach a flag, if nothing more, than as a courtesy to those who are traveling behind me. I'm surprised something like that was not done in this situation.

  • cjb Bountiful, UT
    May 2, 2014 3:30 p.m.

    DanO

    No, the bike rider was most likely watching where he was going. It wasn't reasonable that he would expect that someone would have put a non visible wire where it could cut into him.

  • DanO Mission Viejo, CA
    May 2, 2014 5:34 p.m.

    ImpartialObserver, cjb.. It's pretty common practice to not ride your bike on the grass. What is so hard about this concept for you guys to understand?

  • Dante Salt Lake City, UT
    May 2, 2014 9:11 p.m.

    If you tie up a tightrope/slackline somewhere on public property, you have at least a duty to stay nearby and warn off others who might be injured by your stunt, rather than wandering away to indulge in other activities. Maybe the cyclist is at fault for failing to obey campus rules concerning where to ride a bicycle. It is not necessarily foreseeable that riding one's bike off the path across a grassy area with trees should lead to death.

    All these are facts that everyone is surmising, but which will need to be ascertained and proven through the litigation process. The likelihood is that both sides share come degree of fault, and that the University will propose a settlement far less than the amount requested, and the family will accept it. The family is not trying to ruin the lives of anyone, nor impose guilt on them. All involved parties need to come before the court to present their evidence. I've seen enough news stories that got the facts wrong that I'm in no rush to pass judgment based on assumed, yet to be proven, facts.

  • earthquakejake Logan, UT
    May 2, 2014 9:52 p.m.

    He was riding his bike down a big grass hill weaving through trees. That was his own negligence.

  • CBAX Provo, UT
    May 4, 2014 1:50 p.m.

    Get sued people.

  • Lasvegaspam Henderson, NV
    May 5, 2014 11:40 p.m.

    Linus, you are SO right! Thank you for your thoughts.

  • CBAX Provo, UT
    May 6, 2014 7:13 a.m.

    I will start slack lining up mountains where mountain bikers bike on non designated trails.