Cook County Judge Enters Verdict of $1.875 Million Verdict for the Death of a Bicyclist Who Fell Through a Storefront Window

On May 24, 2011, Michael Racky was bicycling across 95th Street at LaCrosse Avenue in Oak Lawn, Ill. He jumped his bike over a 12-inch curb at the southwest corner to reach the sidewalk. There, the bike slowed and wobbled due to the loss of momentum.

Racky was 52 years old at the time. He continued riding south parallel to a commercial building, Karnezis Properties Plaza, when he extended his left arm and his right hand lightly touched a large, plate-glass storefront window while he attempted to retain his balance on his bike.

As he touched the window, it collapsed. He fell inside the storefront with his legs draped over the broken glass. His left leg was cut to the bone. An eyewitness to the incident, an off-duty Chicago Fire Department paramedic, tried without success to apply a tourniquet to Racky’s leg.

Oak Lawn Illinois paramedics arrived quickly but unfortunately Racky bled out and died at the scene within a few minutes. He is survived by four grown children.

Racky was unemployed and a long-time alcoholic who was found to have a .203 blood alcohol content in the autopsy report.

In November 2010, the Karnezis Property Plaza had sustained fire and smoke damage. Property reconstruction was being handled by the defendant in this case, Belfor, and early on by a subcontractor Robinette Demolition under the supervision of a Belfor employee.

According to the lawsuit, the storefront window had been weakened by 2 BB holes of an undetermined origin and 3 large cracks that were caused during interior demolition that was started in April 2011. This was done while Belfor was the possessor of the land. It was argued that Belfor owed those individuals on the sidewalk adjacent to the building, Racky included, a duty of reasonable care.

As one might expect, the defendants argued that the window shattered when Racky struck it with his handlebar and denied that Belfor was a possessor of the land. The defendant insisted that Racky was contributorily negligent, contested the estate’s claim for conscious pain and suffering and disputed the heirs’ grief and sorrow damages, noting that due to Racky’s alcoholism, he had been estranged from his children for a long time before connecting with them within the year of his death.

However, in the trial judge’s written opinion and order, he found the testimony of plaintiff’s experts to be more credible and consistent with the eyewitness’s account of the accident than that of the defendants’ expert.

Furthermore, the trial judge found that Belfor had complete possession and control of the property and that either Belfor or its subcontractor had created a hazardous condition that presented an unreasonable risk to people on the property and along the abutting public way.

Finally, the trial judge stated that although Racky’s death was not the direct result of any impairment or ordinance violation such as riding his bicycle along the sidewalk, he had failed to use due consideration for his own safety and reduced the total award entered by the jury by 25% for contributory negligence.

The judge’s verdict of $2,500,000 was reduced by 25% to $1,875,000 and made up of the following damages:

$1 million on the survival action plus $1.5 million for wrongful death after former-codefendants, Karnezis Property and Robinette Demolition Inc., settled for $250,000 and $95,000, respectively. The defendants have filed a notice of appeal.

This case was tried in the presence of a judge only and without a jury.

The attorney representing the Michael J. Racky family was Thomas M. Paris. Before trial, the defendants offered to settle the case for $80,000. The demand to settle before trial was $450,000.

The Racky family’s experts at trial included a safety expert, a glass expert, a neurosurgeon and a counselor.

The defendants offered up opinions by experts in architecture, safety, toxicology and psychiatry.

Estate of Michael J. Racky, deceased v. Belfor USA Group, Inc., No. 12 L 4466 (Cook County, Illinois).

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling bicycle accident cases, automobile accident cases, motorcycle accident cases and pedestrian accident cases for individuals and families who have been injured or killed by the negligence of another for more than 40 years, in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas including, Wheeling, Willow Springs, Winnetka, Summit, Thornton, South Chicago Heights, Prospect Heights, Hoffman Estates, Harwood Heights, Hazel Crest, Hickory Hills, Hinsdale, Forest Park, Franklin Park, Blue Island, Burbank, Burr Ridge, Calumet Park, Chicago Ridge, Bartlett, Barrington Hills, Justice, Crete and Steger, Ill.

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