Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Strava Suit...

First off, I like using Strava.  I think it is fun, good way to keep track of rides, and fosters some healthy competition.  Do I chase KOM's?  Sometimes.  I really just like how I can keep track of my rides, especially when I go out on unfamiliar routes.  I can always look up where I went and how to get back there.

That said, today I read about a family suing Strava for the death of their son when he was speeding down a hill to reclaim his KOM: http://velonews.competitor.com/2012/06/news/family-sues-strava-over-descending-death_224889 .

I know what you are thinking: James, you are a personal injury lawyer, you would probably sue too.  Well, maybe, if the facts were good.  Obviously, for the Strava suit I don't know all of the facts.  But what I do know is the cyclist was speeding (in excess of the speed limit, which, as a vehicle cyclists are bound by speed limits) down a hill.

The lawsuit alleges that Strava negligently caused the death by encouraging the cyclist to speed.  Truth be told, Strava, to some extent, does encourage this behavior.  You become KOM and two days later someone (ahem, Denny Yunk) steals your KOM on that same portion of road.  Strava then sends you an email notifying you that said person stole your KOM and by how much time.  Now, none of the KOM's I am after are on descents, but I have headed out on my bike to speed uphill in an attempt to get my KOM back.  So, it is arguable that Strava encourages such behavior.

However, here is my problem with the case.  It is going to very hard to show that Strava was more negligent than the cyclist himself.  If the cyclist is the more negligent party, then the cyclist recovers nothing.  In this case, the cyclist was willingly speeding down a hill.  He chose to do that.  He chose to get in a vehicle and disobey the traffic laws.

Strava may have some fault, but the question is "is Strava more at fault for the cyclist's death?"  That will be hard to prove to a court when trying to defend this case form being thrown out, and, assuming it gets past that point, it will be a hard point to prove to a jury- very hard.

The most interesting thing about this lawsuit, to me, is the use of Strava itself.  Users of Strava, and other ride recorders, are basically using a "black box" when they ride.  It logs speed, distance and can show you how fast you were going at specific distance or time in the ride.  And then it stores it online.  If there is an incident, and later a lawsuit, attorneys will be able to view how fast the cyclist was going at the time, where exactly the cyclist was when hit and/or caused an collision.  The data collected becomes the "truth" of what happened.  It can be used for or against an individual. And if you delete the data and/or ride, you could possibly have destroyed evidence and could face sanctions from a court- much like removing things from Facebook.

In all, it will be interesting to see what happens with this case.  Will Strava settle to show a good face?  Will Strava defend and move to dismiss the case to prevent future lawsuits or to show this case has no merits in law?  Or, will a judge see that this is all a matter of fact, which is for a jury to decide?

It is an interesting lawsuit, that I do not think is frivolous, but it will be very hard to overcome the fact that the cyclist chose to speed down a hill, and that the cyclist might just be the most negligent party in this case.


  1. California is a Pure Comparative Negligence state which means that a plaintiff can recover some damages even if they were partly at fault. I think the bar in California isn't 50% for a contributory negligence defense.

  2. Right. I should have stated that. However, I still think the cyclist is much more at fault than Strava, if not wholly at fault.

  3. Good stuff James - interesting read for me, thanks. My non-attorney question - would this person had been on that road exceeding the speed limit without Strava? Probably not. If so - doesn't that point to Strava as being a portion culpable? Also - what about the car the cyclist hit - I know if Wisconsin the car driver would have some fault in this too.

  4. Well, simple fact is we don't know whether the cyclist would exceed the speed limit or not without Strava. Some people speed no matter what vehicle they are using and some don't. It is possible Strava is culpable for encouraging people to go faster, but at what percentage is Strava's fault? That is a tough question to answer. As to the car, I don't know- more facts on how it exactly happened are needed. If the car driver was not providing a proper lookout for other vehicles, or lets say parked illegally, the driver could have some fault in the death.