Westchester County Settles Lawsuit Over Bicyclist Death

Westchester County agreed to pay over $3 million in a lawsuit over the 2015 death of a local bicyclist. The bicyclist, Robert Small, an orthopedic surgeon at White Plains Hospital, died after an accident on the North County Trailway. Small, an avid and competitive bicyclist, according to LoHud.com, lost consciousness after biking into a marked pothole. The Briarcliff Manor resident did not regain consciousness and died four days later.

Small’s wife sued Westchester County, alleging that by failing to fill the pothole in the bicycle trail Westchester County acted negligently and caused the death of her husband. Steve Schirm, a surgeon who did not previously know Small, rode his bicycle in front of Small on the day of the accident. In a deposition taking during the trial process, Schirm recalled hearing the doctor yell and turned around to see Small flip over the handlebars of his bike. With one leg still attached to the bike clips, Small then landed head-first onto the ground. Though he was wearing a helmet, Small landed on his forehead.

Schirm said he tried to pull Small from the puddle created by the pothole and call 911 but he was unable to provide his exact location. After another passing bicyclist called the police, Yorktown police and EMS arrived to find Small unconscious. The police found the pothole in the parkway in a stretch of the pathway immediately preceding Small’s bicycle accident. Westchester Parks Department promptly patched the hole on the trail after police cited the pothole as a contributing factor in Small’s death.

While Small’s wife sued for $12 million, she says she is happy receiving the smaller sum since a jury may have found her husband partially responsible for his own accident. Small was biking at approximately 21 miles per an hour and either drafting or racing with Schirm when the accident happened. Further, while the pothole was not filled by the parks department, it was clearly marked. For these reasons, Small’s wife accepted the smaller, but not unsubstantial settlement award from the county. Westchester County lawmakers overwhelmingly approved the legal settlement in a vote of 15-2. Damon Maher, one of the two dissenting votes, told LoHud.com that Westchester County should have taken its chances with the jury because of Small’s high speed and other factors.

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