A 41-year-old cyclist was riding his bicycle on the island of Oahu an hour before dawn, training for a triathlon. As he came down a hill on the Kalanianaole Highway, he lost control of the bicycle, fell and landed on his head. Even though he was wearing a helmet, he suffered a traumatic brain injury.
There were no witnesses to the accident and the cyclist had no memory of the event. We reconstructed what happened by examining a few fibers of cloth left in the pavement. The cyclist had fallen near a row of white reflector poles on the shoulder of the road. One pole was missing; only its base mount was still glued to the road. The base mount was black. The cyclist could not see it in the dark; he ran over it and lost control of the bicycle.
We found witnesses who testified that the pole had been missing from its mount for months. Further research into road design standards showed that the white reflector poles should never have been installed in the path of possible bicycle traffic.
The state of Hawaii, however, refused to accept any responsibility. The state’s lawyers, at trial, claimed that the cyclist simply ran off the road and never even hit the pole mount. We proved that two punctures in the cyclist’s front tire could only have been made by the base mount.
The judge agreed and awarded the cyclist $2.2 million.