El Tour, county settle lawsuit over '08 crash

Pact should go to supervisors today; it gives injured bicyclist $3.5 million
2010-10-19T00:00:00Z El Tour, county settle lawsuit over '08 crashKim Smith Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
October 19, 2010 12:00 am  • 

Pima County and the organizers of El Tour de Tucson have settled a lawsuit with a Surprise resident who was brain-damaged in a crash nearly two years ago. The settlement was for $3.5 million.

The agreement was reached during mediation last week and is expected to be presented to the Pima County Board of Supervisors for approval this morning, said Stephen Leshner, who represents Gary Stuebe.

Stuebe was riding in the bicycling event on Nov. 22, 2008, when William Wilson, then 91, turned north onto Westward Look Drive from West Ina Road and collided with 10 bike riders.

Stuebe, then 41, suffered a life-threatening brain injury, and four others suffered a variety of less-serious injuries.

Stuebe's wife and four of the injured bicyclists sued Wilson, the organizers of the race - Perimeter Bicycling Association of America - Sheriff Clarence Dupnik and Deputy Muriel McGillicuddy, who was providing traffic control at the scene.

All five of the plaintiffs settled their lawsuits with Wilson for a confidential sum several months ago, and four out of the five have now settled with the county. San Diego attorney and bicyclist Don English, who punctured a lung and broke seven bones, is scheduled to go to trial Nov. 2.

Taxpayers won't be directly responsible for the $3.5 million. Although the county normally pays the first $2 million of any judgment or claim settlement, the Perimeter Bicycling Association took out a $2 million policy on the event, which will cover the county's out-of-pocket obligation, said William Rubin, who helped represent the county. Insurance will cover the rest.

Leshner said it's miraculous that Stuebe is alive. He suffered damage to his frontal and temporal lobes, had portions of his brain removed and spent 40 days in a coma. He still suffers from epilepsy as a result of the crash.

Before the crash, Stuebe was a senior inventory analyst for PetSmart, but he will never be able to return to that job, Leshner said.

"Gary has a lot of challenges, but the settlements give him a secure financial future," Leshner said.

Despite the settlements, Leshner said Stuebe is determined to work again and is considering a job offer to sack groceries.

Wilson fled the scene and hired attorney Michael Bloom, who provided Wilson's name to authorities two days later.

He pleaded guilty to attempted leaving the scene of an accident and was placed on three years' probation in June 2009.

Bloom said at the time of his sentencing that Wilson left only because he was frightened by angry bicyclists who had gathered around his car and yelled at him.

According to Bloom and the plaintiffs, Deputy McGillicuddy manually adjusted the lights on Ina Road so that traffic going both ways had a green light. Twenty minutes before the crash, the deputy also removed a cone intended to prevent eastbound traffic from turning north onto Westward Look Drive.

One of the issues being litigated before last week's settlement was for whom McGillicuddy was working - the county or the bicycle association.

Bloom said that when Wilson turned north onto Westward Look, he could not see the bicyclists because his vision was obstructed by vegetation in the median and by two lanes of cars that were backed up as a result of a crash farther up westbound Ina Road.

At the time of his sentencing, Wilson was living in an assisted-living center in Georgia. In Pima County Superior Court, Judge Richard Nichols forbade him to drive, although he already had surrendered his license.

On StarNet: Find a multiyear database of race results at azstarnet.com/eltour

Contact reporter Kim Smith at 573-4241 or kimsmith@azstarnet.com

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Activate

Most Popular

Follow the Arizona Daily Star

Featured businesses

View more...

Deals, offers & events

View more...

Event Calendar

Today's events | Add an event

Most viewed:


Get weekly ads via e-mail