Portal Trail photo by dauw.

Bad news out of Hartford, CT: A mountain biker who was injured at the West Hartford Reservoir (managed by the Metropolitan District Commission) sued and won $2.9 million from a jury. Maribeth Blonski, who once hosted a mountain biking television show on a local access channel, was injured when she clipped a steel gate installed to keep vehicles out of the area. Blonski broke four vertebrae in her neck, though the long term implications of her injury are not mentioned in the article I read. The jury did find, however, that Blonski was (only) partially responsible for her injuries.

As mountain bikers we all need to take personal responsibility whenever we ride because when landowners get sued, they close trails to bikes. For every landowner who loses a lawsuit like this, there are easily a dozen or more who get scared and close their trails just to be safe.

Every time we saddle up we make a choice and sometimes that choice can have unforeseen consequences. Mountain biking is a dangerous sport (that’s part of what makes it fun) and just like everything else, there are risks involved. If something seems unsafe to you (like a metal gate), get off your bike and walk around it or even better, get back in your car and go home. Don’t risk hurting yourself and ruining a good thing for everyone else.

# Comments

  • joetutt

    First let me say this, I hope Ms. Blonski is doing well and I hate to see this happen to anybody. But you know, this kind of stuff just pisses me off. She hosted a MTB TV show for crying out loud. She’s well aware of the hazards of mountain biking. No accountability anymore.

  • Suvacrew

    I’m with you on this one Joe. Hope she does recover to ride again, but this contributory negligence stuff is a joke. She well knew the hazards involved in riding her bike and when gauging the extent of her injuries, sounds like she was chugging along pretty well when she tagged the gate. Landowner will be protected by insurance or some tax payer funded fund, and we still don’t know if there will be an appeal on this case.
    Not a good precedent.

  • haymake

    Do we have to be politically correct? I know I don’t want her or anybody like her riding the trails I ride and take a chance her or someone like her will sue because “it’s someone elses fault.”

  • eastwood

    Like others, certainly hope she recovers and gets back on a bike… that being said – we all need to take responsibility when we ride. We need to protect trails, and take responsibility when we take a spill. Whether we flip on a natural aspect of a trail or a gate – it was our riding and our choices that got us in that position. As Jeff mentioned in his blog – if you are unsure, walk it!! At a time when we are working with landowners and local governments to gain greater access this is a big step backwards in our movement.
    Makes me wonder what her show was all about…

  • abovetheridge

    Do hope she is ok and recovers, but please. This is indirectly related to why we all pay higher taxes, higher insurance, etc… I found a chunk of wood (yes CHUNK) in my soup can one day while eating lunch. Just spooning in my mouth and wham, bit down into a chunk of wood that caused a bit of pain as it was unexpected. No broken/cracked tooth, sliced gums, nerve damage to my face, etc.. That was the end of the story. I wrote them with the can serialization distribution info just in case they had other inquiries, who knows where it came from, perhaps a stirring oar, I don’t know. Could I have sued? Absolutely, had a witness. Didn’t sue because that’s not who I am. Was that their fault? 100% probably since they have a QA department and I’m not required to analyze the contents of the can prior to eating. Point is, in her wreck, it was just that, an accident. Were there other factors involved? Could she not get her feet unclipped fast enough? Let’s sue the pedal manufacturer. With knobbier tires, could it have been avoided? Let’s sue the tire manufacturer. Was speed a factor? Let’s add that to the case of suing the landowner for having too steep a grade on the land.
    These types of people need to take responsbility and accountability for what they do, PERIOD. My shoe comes untied, I trip on the lace, fall and bust out my teeth on the sidewalk. Is the shoe manufacturer responsible for laces that come undone by themselves? Jeesh, we could all go on and on. Shame on her for filing this suit, shame on the greedy lawyers for viewing this as a $ making opportunity and shame on this jury for allowing that verdict. It’s all BS.

  • ChiliPepper

    Damn ‘abovetheridge’!!! That was an awesome posting by far. You are so true brother, so true indeed. I wish all felt this way, though not, I know I do. Everyone is so damn sue happy these days, and it has got to a point of just plain greediness. Though this all falls on self accountability & responsibility, in this world this will never happen, sad to say. People do not have any form of self accountability for themselves, they just point fingers & blame everything on everyone else besides themselves. Yes, there are cases that legal proceedings should be pursued, but all the rest, get real everyone.

    Awesome response ‘abovetheridge’!!

  • aluc

    Sorry to sound a little indifferent, however I could care less if she has a speedy recovery. She just scammed 3 million dollars. I’ve had lots of accidents…breaks, punctures etc., and have never tried to sue anyone because I understand that it’s the nature of the sport. It’s the easiest 3 mill she’ll ever make! This is just like people who slip and fall in the winter, and then try to sue because they don’t watch where they’re going. What happened to personal responsibility?

  • rsabates

    As mountain bikers, WE assume the risks – not the trail owners. Safety mechanisms are found on roller coasters, not trails. Keep this up and we’ll have no where to ride.

  • abovetheridge

    Applause to all of us who accept responsibility and accountability for who we are and what we do. Sue happy doesn’t resolve anything and ultimately we all get punished, whether monetarily or recreationally. Ride on, ride hard, ride safe and ride responsibly! See you on the trails!! 🙂

  • Goo

    What a crap shoot. I agree with Aluc and disagree with everyone else on the fact that I HOPE SHE TAKES FOREVER TO RECOVER. She just got paid 3 million dollars for being an idiot and wrecking on her mountain bike, and most likely will get that trail and others closed as a result of the lawsuit.!

    I hope she suffers some serious pain!

  • ChiliPepper

    That is some pretty harsh words there Goo! Do you really want to wish all that on another human being because they made a mistake, though not a very good one at it, but still just a mistake. Yeah, she definitely does not deserve all that green back, but to wish her to suffer all that pain and such a slow recovery is just not the character of a someone of you stature. You know what I mean bro!

  • Goo

    I guess you’re right dude, but I have no tolerance for such sue-happy people.

  • bikenut1

    well, lets just say ” hope she has to spend all her $ on lawyers and medical blls”

  • bhann

    I challenge her to donate a portion of her settlement to an advocacy group such as the International Mountain Bike Association to ensure that safe and sustainable trails are built and maintained by local clubs and municipalities.

    I don’t thing 20% is out of the question!

  • ChiliPepper

    bhann, that is an awesome reply! I totally agree with you on this one and it would have been sweet if it was implemented in the settlement.

  • dbbolt

    For those that don’t ride this reservoir, she was riding on a straight full width paved road in a flat section into a gate which has always been there to prevent vehicles from driving the road where bikes, runners and walkers travel at all times. She had been through this section many times, and was, according to her lawyer, going in excess of 25 mph. As an expert rider I would be hard pressed to get a mountain bike going that fast in this section. The obstruction was a 5″ yellow pipe which is always across the road with bike access around either side. She had to be riding in the dark to miss the gate she “forgot” was there, except the trails close at dusk so that would be illegal. Oh, by the way, she was riding the wrong way on this road which is set up for one way bike traffic for safety. Other than that, she had no responsibility. She should donate the entire sum to some Mt Bike organization; better yet, give it back so we all don’t get kicked out of these trails.

  • downhillboyz

    stupid, the gate is always going to be there and it is not the landowners fault that she decided to ride into it.

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