A Bainbridge Island man who fell off his bike in Waterfront Park has filed a lawsuit against the city.
Thomas Clune was riding his bike in the park three summers ago, on his way to volunteer for Squeaky Wheels’ annual Bike for Pie event, when he crashed his bike and was injured. The bike accident happened in 2015, the summer before Waterfront Park was renovated with new sidewalks and other amenities.
According to a damage claim he filed in May against the city, Clune said he was biking along a path toward Eagle Harbor when he moved off the path to avoid some pedestrians who were walking up the hill.
Clune said he was going less than 3 miles per hour at about 10 a.m. Aug. 9, 2015 when his front wheel got caught in a ditch and he flew over his handlebars, landing on his face and left arm.
According to the damage claim, the ditch had been dug at the direction of the city and the Bainbirdge Island Rowing Club to redirect runoff water from the club’s boat cleaning operations, and the ditch was hidden by overgrown grass, weeds and dandelions.
Clune broke a front tooth when he fell and had facial cuts that needed 16 stitches to close. He also said he was permanently disabled due to tears to his left shoulder rotator cuff.
In the claim filed in May, Clune sought coverage of medical expenses, loss of earnings and earning potential and general damages. He sought damages of $750,000, which included “all past and future medical expenses, loss of earnings and earnings capacity, pain and suffering, permanent disfigurement and disability, and loss of enjoyment of life.”
Clune, 65, did not file a police report of the incident after it happened. According to paperwork on file with the city, he also filed a claim with the rowing club’s insurance carrier, Philadelphia Insurance Company.
The damage claim — a necessary step before a lawsuit can be launched in superior court — was originally sent by the city to its insurance pool, which investigated the incident, according to city spokeswoman Kristen Drew.
Melissa Westberg, Clune’s attorney, filed the lawsuit against the city Aug. 7 in Kitsap County Superior Court.
In the court complaint, Westberg said the city had been negligent and had a duty to keep the Waterfront Park area safe for users and the area where Clune fell had not been roped off or marked. She also said the city was negligent for leasing part of the park property to the rowing club, which was also responsible for the condition of the park where the bicycling mishap occurred.
The lawsuit seeks damages in an amount that will be determined at trial, as well as attorney fees.
Bainbridge City Attorney Joe Levan did not respond to a request for comment from the Review.
Westberg said Clune, a 30-year resident of Bainbridge and the owner of B.I.Cycle Shop, is an advocate for bicycle safety on the island.
He sustained severe and permanent injuries from the crash, and noted that it was a “hidden, man-made ditch” that made the expert cyclist fall over his handlebars.
“We believe Bainbridge Island community members want their parks and public spaces maintained in a manner so that they are safe for ordinary travel by bicyclists and pedestrians and free of needless hazards,” she said. “Mr. Clune hopes that through this process, Bainbridge Island is made a safer place for bicyclists and pedestrians using public parks and thoroughfares.”