$7.3 Million Verdict Reinstated in Government Liability Case

by Tony Flesor

After a second trial, a federal judge said the government was responsible for a man’s severe head injury.

The case, which began with a serious bicycle accident on an Air Force Academy trail in 2008, made its way up to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals and back down again with directions to apply a different law. The change in applicable statute, however, wasn’t enough to convince the district court judge that the Air Force Academy wasn’t the responsible party for the plaintiff’s injuries. The plaintiff, James Nelson, had a $7.3 million verdict reinstated with interest and attorney’s fees yet to be determined. And the attorneys who represented him hope that receiving that outcome for the second time is enough to put the case to rest.

James Nelson was cycling on a trail on Air Force Academy property in September 2008 when he came upon a part of the trail that was washed out — to him, however, the damaged trail looked to be shaded or under water, not missing entirely.

Nelson was flung from his bike onto the asphalt path and sustained serious permanent injuries — a brain injury, vision loss, permanent scarring and endocrine system damage. He sued under the Federal Tort Claims Act and after a 2013 trial, won a verdict against the federal government under the Premises Liability Act.

To read this story and other complete articles featured in the June 19, 2017 print edition of Law Week Colorado, copies are available for purchase online.