Chesterton, Indiana — In the summer of 2014, Sheila Gonzalez was enjoying a bike ride with her children. As the family approached a busy intersection, Sheila was the first to cross. She thought there was enough time for her to pedal across the street. Unfortunately, there was not. Sheila was struck by Sara Ritz, a detective for the Chesterton Police Department and a member of the Porter County Drug Taskforce.
What’s the Lawsuit?
Gonzalez and her husband filed a negligence suit against the task force in the winter of 2016. The to the task force and the town motioned for a summary of judgment in the summer of 2017. In other words, a judgment was made without a full trial.
When Shelia’s children were interviewed about the events that happened that day, they stated that the road was clear and their mother came to a complete stop before proceeding across Lute Road. They also stated that the detective’s vehicle appeared to be moving faster than the other cars on the road. By the end of May 2018, the Indiana Court of Appeals was able to reverse the ruling.
What’s Yosi’s Take?
This sounds like a classic Auto v. Bicycle case and classic he said-she said dispute. It bodes well for the Gonzalez family that Judge Bradford held that the designated evidence would permit a finding that Gonzalez was not contributorily negligent in the accident. It also helps that Gonzalez and her children testified that Lute Road was clear, that Gonzalez came to a complete stop, assessed the road before deciding to cross, and the Gonzalez children stated that Ritz was driving faster than the other traffic on the road. These are all issues that jury will have to decide on.
The jury will need to determine who they believe more, Officer Ritz or the Gonzalez family. Whoever the jury sides with will ultimately prevail in this case. If during the trial, I determined that there was an increasingly damaging testimony that was coming out against Ritz and the Town of Chesterton, I would advise them to settle with the Gonzalez family. The jury may sympathize more with a bicyclist rather than an automobile as a bicycle doesn’t offer the same protection against accidents that automobiles do.