Family of cyclist killed in crash settles with truck driver, employer

Yates' $5 million lawsuit alleging negligence was days from trial

  • Riders in this year's Tour de Greater Homewood raised their bikes alongside a "ghost bike" as they paused to remember John R. "Jack" Yates, for whom this year's ride was named. Yates was killed near here at Maryland and Lafayette avenues in August.
Riders in this year's Tour de Greater Homewood raised… (Baltimore Sun photo by Amy…)
December 01, 2010|By Liz F. Kay, The Baltimore Sun

The family of a Baltimore cyclist killed last year in a collision with a tanker truck on Maryland Avenue has settled a $5 million lawsuit against the driver and his employer, the family's attorney said.

John R. "Jack" Yates, 67, was riding behind the truck Aug. 4, 2009, when the vehicle made a right turn onto Lafayette Avenue in the Charles North neighborhood and Yates got caught in its rear wheels, according to city police.

The Yates family settled last week with the tanker's driver and his employer, Potts & Callahan Inc., days before the lawsuit was set to go to trial on Monday, said the Yates' attorney, Steven D. Silverman.

The terms of the settlement are confidential, according to Silverman and Craig D. Roswell, who represented the driver, Michael Dale Chandler of Severn, and Potts & Callahan.

"This was a settlement that was ultimately satisfactory to all parties in a difficult case," Roswell said. "It was appropriate given all the facts and circumstances."

Silverman agreed that the Yates family was content with the outcome.

"The Yates family is satisfied under the circumstances with the resolution that the parties were able to come to," the attorney said. "They were not so much interested in taking this case to trial, particularly in light of the fact that the death spurred significant legislation in the General Assembly regarding cyclists' safety and rights."

In October, a law went into effect requiring that drivers maintain a 3-foot buffer when passing a bicycle.

Members of Baltimore's cycling community erected a "ghost bike" memorial to Yates, which remains on Lafayette Avenue at Maryland Avenue.

The Yates family's suit alleged negligence by Chandler and Potts & Callahan — a demolition, excavation and equipment rental company — and sought compensatory damages. But investigators found Yates at fault in the crash, and no charges were filed against Chandler, who did not stop at the scene. Police said at the time that they did not believe Chandler was aware of the crash.

According to the accident report, police found a vehicle several days after the crash at Potts & Callahan's service yard in the 2800 block of Falls Road that matched one seen on surveillance video from a nearby building the day of the incident. DNA samples from hair and blood on the vehicle matched Yates', police said.

Silverman called the police findings "one of the sloppiest investigations in a fatality that I personally have seen in years."

Had the lawsuit gone to trial, Silverman said, he was prepared to present evidence that was not included in the police report. For example, the surveillance video showed that the driver had not signaled before making his turn, and the intersection was marked with two large, yellow signs indicating that cyclists were in the area.

liz.kay@baltsun.com

http://twitter.com/lfkay

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