Bicycle collisions can result in serious injuries or even death. In a March 28, 2018 case arising out of a fatal cycling accident, the surviving spouse filed a Tennessee wrongful death lawsuit against two individuals who were cycling with her husband. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants, holding that, among other things, the decedent was at least 50% at fault for the accident and that the activities in which they were engaged were inherently dangerous. The plaintiff appealed the decision.
In the case, the husband, the defendants, and two others were on a cycling expedition on the shoulder of a highway in Tennessee. The group was riding in a paceline, which requires the cyclists to ride in a line extremely close to each other in order to counteract wind resistance and increase the efficiency of the ride. All of the individuals in the group, including the decedent, were seasoned cyclists. At some point during the ride, one of the defendant’s front tire struck the other defendant’s back tire, causing the former to crash and fall to the pavement. As the decedent attempted to avoid him, he somehow flew off his bicycle and landed on his head. The decedent was rendered quadriplegic by the wreck and months later passed away.
On appeal, the defendants argued that paceline riding is an inherently risky activity, especially for an older cyclist such as the decedent, and pointed to the testimony of the experts and participants. The appeals court disagreed with the position that, by participating in paceline riding, the decedent assumed the risk of any unreasonably dangerous conduct on the part of the other participants. The court also noted that the Tennessee Supreme Court had abolished implied assumption of the risk as a complete bar to recovery.