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Family of bicyclist killed in city accident files $5 million sui

The Baltimore Sun: Family of bicyclist killed in city accident files $5 million suit

Attorney claims driver of truck was negligent; police determined victim, 67, at fault

By Liz F. Kay | liz.kay@baltsun.com
5:33 p.m. EST, March 4, 2010

The family of a bicyclist who was killed last year in a collision with a truck on Maryland Avenue near downtown Baltimore has filed a $5 million wrongful death suit against the driver and his employer.

On Aug. 4, John R. "Jack" Yates, 67, was riding his bike south on Maryland Avenue behind a truck when he got caught in the vehicle's rear wheels and was run over as it turned right on Lafayette Avenue, in the Charles North neighborhood, police said at the time. Yates died at the scene.

The civil suit, filed Wednesday in Baltimore City Circuit Court on behalf of Yates' wife, son and daughter, seeks compensatory damages for negligence by driver Michael Dale Chandler of Severn and Potts & Callahan Inc., a demolition, excavation and equipment rental company.

Steven D. Silverman, the attorney representing Yates' family, claims that Chandler and his employer were negligent because a surveillance video shows the driver turned right without signaling. Also, "he took a right turn without making sure it was clear and free of traffic -- cyclists or pedestrians," Silverman said.

The lawyer argued that Yates was not negligent because statutes governing bicyclists require them to stay with the flow of traffic, as far to the right as possible.

"That's exactly what Mr. Yates did," Silverman said.

But investigators determined that Yates was at fault because he was riding in parking lanes and tried to pass the truck on the right, which is illegal in Maryland, said Agent Donny Moses, a city police spokesman.

"Our investigators concluded that Mr. Yates drove into the truck," Moses said. No charges were filed against Chandler.

The truck, a fully loaded fuel tanker, did not stop after the accident, but Moses said investigators do not believe the driver was aware of the collision.

"You roll over a body in that size truck, it's kind of like rolling over a pebble," he said.

Marc A. Klitenic, an attorney for Potts & Callahan, told the Maryland Daily Record that it was not a company truck that hit Yates and evidence shows that neither Chandler nor Potts & Callahan caused the collision. He said that police tests of blood and hair found on the company's truck were inconclusive.

According to the accident report, police found a vehicle two days after the collision at Potts & Callahan's service yard on the 2800 block of Falls Road that matched the one in the surveillance video. DNA testing of hair and blood on the truck's tires confirmed that the samples belonged to Yates, Moses said, confirming for police that the vehicle was involved in the collision.

However, "it was inconclusive as to what caused the accident," he said.