By CAROLYN SZCZEPANSKI
Photos courtesy Denise Henning
The scene at the intersection of 12th Street and Grand Boulevard on the afternoon of June 9, 2006, was grisly. A mangled red bike lay against the curb at the end of a long streak of blood. Its rider, 65-year-old John Triggs, was a block away, pinned under the rear wheels of a massive concrete mixer.
Just before 4 p.m., Triggs had started across the street on a green light when an industrial truck struck and dragged him to his ultimate death.
The driver, Jason Driskell, told police he didn’t see Triggs and didn’t get so much as a traffic ticket. The company, Fordyce Concrete Company, wasn’t held liable for the fatal accident, either.
So last year, Triggs’ wife and two sons filed a wrongful death suit against Driskell and the Overland Park-based business.
This month, just a few days before the trial was to begin, Fordyce and the family reached a $2 million settlement.
In their May 2007 petition, Triggs’ family alleged that Driskell had acted negligently in not spotting the cyclist and lawfully yielding to him in the crosswalk. The suit also alleged that Fordyce had not properly trained Driskell to operate the cement mixer, especially on the heavily trafficked streets of downtown Kansas City.
According to court documents, Fordyce rejected any responsibility, claiming instead that it was Triggs who was at fault for riding in a careless manner and initiating contact with the truck.
Denise Henning, the Triggs family attorney, says the company wasn’t willing to acknowledge any fault. “They fought us tooth and nail the entire case,” she says.
But the prospect of a jury trial, complete with photos of a well-loved community philanthropist under the tires of the truck, may have brought the company to the table, Henning says. (A manager for Fordyce and the company’s attorney, Dan Church, did not return messages from The Pitch.)
On Wednesday, Jackson County Judge Michael Manners signed an order approving a $2 million settlement for the Triggs. The company did not admit fault, Henning says, but it still was a victory for the Triggs’ family and the cycling community.
“The family was looking to make Fordyce Concrete responsible for what they did,” she says. “The second thing was to raise awareness in Kansas City about bike safety. We’re not friendly to bicyclists. We’re often hostile, as drivers, to cyclists.”
Surely John Triggs, who spent a lifetime exploring the country on his bike, would hope that this settlement will send a message worth millions.