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USA Cycling, Race Organizers Win Lawsuit

Published June 29, 2009

HOLLIDAYSBURG, PA (BRAIN)—A judge has upheld the validity of two release waivers signed by a woman severely injured four years ago in the Tour de ‘Toona. By signing the she acknowledged the inherent dangers of bicycle racing.

The ruling is a victory for USA Cycling, race organizers, the Altoona Bicycle Club and its president, Larry Bilotto. Also named in the lawsuit were Pennsylvania’s transportation department and Huston Township.

However, the woman’s attorney, Marcy Colkitt, said she will appeal the ruling to the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court. That could take a year or more, according to the Altoona Mirror.

It reported the decision last Thursday.

Blair County District Judge Tim Sullivan, in his 30-page decision, said Scott knew the risks and by signing the waivers agreed not to sue organizers if she injured. Scott ran off the 19.5-mile course trying to negotiate a sharp corner, landed in ditch, and is paralyzed from the sternum down. The accident happened July 29, 2005.

Jim Moss, an attorney who specializes in legal issues involving sports, told BRAIN, “These cases are very sad, but a racer knows the risks of racing—from road rash to paralysis. These are things every rider has experienced or knows about,” he said.

“When you enter a race, join a club, or sign up for a ride, if you’re not ready to accept the risks emotionally and financially, don’t sign the release, don’t race, join or ride. In a majority of states, releases stop lawsuits and if it weren’t for releases we wouldn’t have races, rides or be able to enjoy this sport,” he said.

The judge wrote that there was “nothing ambiguous” in the releases and that the language was clearly stated in terms a layman could understand. The Tour de ‘Toona was cancelled this year in part because of the lawsuit.

Scott’s attorney argued that organizers should have protected the corner with hay bales because in past races two other riders had gone down. However, none were seriously injured.

—Marc Sani

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