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Brian Boyajian v. United States of America

October 14, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: McLaughlin, J.


Brian Boyajian was injured when the bicycle he was riding was hit by a car being driven by an FBI agent. He has brought a claim under the Federal Tort Claims Act. The Court held a bench trial on July 26 and 27, 2011. The Court finds for the plaintiff in the total amount of $72,700.16.

I. Findings of Fact

1. The plaintiff, Brian Boyajian, is twenty-five years old and lives in New Orleans, Louisiana, with Erin Fitzgerald. In February, 2009, he was living in Philadelphia with Fitzgerald.

2. At some time before noon on February 9, 2009, Boyajian rode his bike from his house in West Philadelphia to downtown Philadelphia. He rode to a friend's house at 9th & Catherine Streets but his friend was not home. It was a sunny, chilly day.

3. The bicycle he was riding was unconventional, consisting of two frames welded together, one on top of the other, with the seat about 5 feet above the ground. There is a front braking system on the bicycle. You make the brakes work by way of a lever on the handle bar. The pads hit the rim when you pull the lever. The bike brakes like a regular mountain bike. The brakes were functioning on this day.

4. At approximately noon, he was riding his bike west on Catherine Street, in South Philadelphia. Boyajian was wearing jeans and a sweat shirt. He had a bicycle messenger bag on his back. He did not have on a helmet.

5. At the same time, Special Agent Earl D. Martin of the Federal Bureau of Investigation was driving south on 12th Street, approaching Catherine Street.

6. As Boyajian approached the stop sign on 12th Street at Catherine Street, he saw Special Agent Martin's car coming south on 12th Street and he could see that it was slowing down. He saw the driver with his left hand up protecting his eyes from sun glare. Boyajian stopped at the stop sign, just past the stop line. He was closer to the center of the lane when he stopped. At that time, Special Agent Martin's car was about two car lengths back on 12th Street.

7. Boyajian proceeded through the intersection. When he was most of the way through the intersection, he saw that the car was not slowing down or stopping. The car hit the rear of the bicycle frame on the right side. The car did not strike his body, just the bicycle. His body was thrown toward the southwest corner of the intersection. He came down on his hands and feet. His body cleared the bicycle.

8. Special Agent Martin has been with the FBI for twelve years and is presently assigned to the Milwaukee field office. The agent was involved in a surveillance operation at the time of the accident. He did not stop because he did not see the stop sign. He raised his left hand over his eye to protect himself from the glare of the sun. The stop sign was on his left and he did not see it. He saw Boyajian a split second before his car hit the bike. At that point, Special Agent Martin did not have time to stop. He was going 20 to 25 miles per hour at the time of the impact.

9. Special Agent Martin assisted Boyajian. Someone else called an ambulance. They helped Boyajian get to the corner of the intersection and Boyajian locked the bike to a sign. Boyajian asked Special Agent Martin whether he saw the stop sign and Special Agent Martin told him that he did not because the sun was in his eyes.

10. Boyajian had ridden this bicycle and others like it for many years. He rode this particular bicycle very often --every day for periods of time. He used it periodically as his regular mode of transportation. He had never experienced difficulty riding the bike.

11. There are two ways to stop the bike at a traffic light. Boyajian could either hop down from the bike after coming to a stop or lean on a post or sign. He would use his body weight and steer the front of the bike to offset the balance, similar to how one rides a unicycle. He could balance the bike in this way for more than a minute if he concentrated.

12. At the time of the accident, Boyajian was working at a restaurant in West Philadelphia. He had been working there for about two and a half months at the time of the accident. Before the accident, he had no difficulty working in the restaurant. He never had any difficulty with his left wrist. When he was about fourteen years old, Boyajian had a minor fracture in his left wrist and had a cast on it for about four weeks. The wrist never bothered him after that. He had a minor fracture on his right wrist when he was eight or nine years old and that fracture healed without a problem.

13. Before the accident, Boyajian worked on and rode bicycles a lot. He volunteered for a co-op called "Neighborhood Bike Works" where people can work on their bikes for free with the help of volunteers like himself. Before the accident, he and Fitzgerald shared cooking, cleaning, housework, laundry, etc. Cooking is a passion for both of them. Boyajian never attended any cooking schools or took any courses on cooking.

14. The bicycle was heavy gauge steel. It was not repairable after the accident. The parties agree that the cost of the bicycle is $500.00

15. While Boyajian was on the ground after the accident, his wrist hurt a lot and both feet were painful. He had some scrapes on his body and palms and a protrusion on his left wrist. The fact that the plaintiff fell from the five feet high seat on the bike contributed to his injuries.

16. The plaintiff fractured his left wrist as a result of the accident. The plaintiff is right handed. The plaintiff also injured his large left toe. No doctor has prescribed any treatment for the plaintiff's left foot. The plaintiff has had ...

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