Family sues Strava for causing cyclist's death

William Flint trying to retain KOM title when he crashed into a car

by Sarah Barth   June 19, 2012  

Bike GPS

The family of an American man who died trying to beat his speed record are suing Strava for encouraging him to speed.

William ‘Kim’ Flint, from Oakland, had just lost his Strava ‘King of the Mountains’ title on a local downhill stretch when he crashed into a car nearly two years ago, apparently trying to keep his record.

A lawsuit was filed in San Francisco on Monday by his family against the San Francisco-based Strava -- a website that hosts virtual races and rewards winners who use a GPS system to track their own time on short stretches of road against competitors.

"His family basically wants justice for him," Susan Kang, the Flint family's attorney told abc news.

Flint’s speed in Grizzly Peak was at least 10 miles above the posted speed limit of 30 mph. He had learned via Strava that another cyclist had clocked a better time. He was fatally injured when he suddenly braked to avoid a car and his bike flipped over.

The lawsuit accuses Strava of negligence.

"They assume no responsibility. They don't put cones out. They don't have anybody monitor and see whether a course, or a specific segment, is dangerous," said Kang. She added that if Strava knows a segment is dangerous, it should be removed from the site.

Strava spokesman Mark Riedy issued a statement saying, "The death of Kim Flint was a tragic accident, and we expressed our sincere condolences when it occurred in 2010. Based on the facts involved in the accident and the law, there is no merit to this lawsuit."

According to prosecutors, the man who killed a pensioner in San Francisco and could now face up to six years in jail was also tracking his speed using Strava.

 

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I wonder if Strava's disclaimer is at all relevant anyway, since the people suing have not agreed to it.

John Stevenson's picture

posted by John Stevenson [975 posts]
19th June 2012 - 13:38

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i tried strava for a bit but haven't used it for a while. i'm not convinced its algorithms are clever enough right now to give you a truly accurate time, there's too many accounts of two riders riding the same climb together and being given significantly different numbers. GPS is great for lots of things, but the consumer signal isn't really accurate enough for timing short segments.

even when i was using it, i didn't go after the downhill segments. on a climb the limitation is basically your own fitness. on a descent there's too many other factors in play, some of which you can't control. if you're racing downhill, you really need a managed environment to mitigate the risks. I'm saddened by this story, but I can't say I'm really surprised. I'm no racer, but I'm competitive enough that i'd be prepared to take risks to do better when in a racing environment. if that's on a marked, managed, marshalled course then things can still go wrong but at least someone's looked at the risks.

There's a downhill segment on my ride in, down North Road in Bath. without knowing it I posted the second fastest time down it (case in point: I'm pretty sure I didn't average 42mph down it, but there i am) and there was a time in my life when i'd have gone after the speed needed to get to the top, down a steep road with parked cars and some limited visibility exits from side roads. now it just doesn't seem too clever. maybe i'm getting old...

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posted by Dave Atkinson [7256 posts]
19th June 2012 - 13:47

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Tony, I can see that you are deliberately being objective as possible here and I concur with many of your points. However, Strava emailing you to advise you your time has been beaten isn't really the same as being insulted.

When you sign up to Strava or anything else it's to track your training and possibly to 'compete'. Competing in a sporting context in the knowledge other will target your times, isn't the same as facing an unsolicited insult or affront.

You've hit the nail on the head though. Strava encourages you to make a decision. It doesn't make it for you.

arrieredupeleton

posted by arrieredupeleton [538 posts]
19th June 2012 - 14:07

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tony_farrelly wrote:
Any good laywer is going to view it as information that is meant as a call to action however neutrally it is delivered. Not very different from seeking someone out to casually mention that they've been insulted out of earshot. You've only passed on information, but you know there s a good chance that the person will act upon it - could you have anticipated they had a gun or were likely to over-react? If you didn't anticpate that before giving them the information you were surely being careless and possibly even negligent.

I think I'm a good lawyer, and I don't see it as a call to action to put myself in danger Wink But seriously, the person giving information in your scenario is not negligent - they had no duty to stop the other person from committing a crime. Just like strava, giving information, have no duty to stop people acting on the information in a way that endangers them or others.

tony_farrelly wrote:
No doubt the lawyer will also argue that if you create an online environment that encourages people to ride fast in the real world, and in which competition is the compelling component you can't be insulated from the consequences when things go wrong as a result of people competing to post the best time.

Why should strava be responsible for people, of their own volition, creating danger on the roads? It's pefectly possible to compete on strava without creating danger beyond the general background risk of riding a bike on the road. There's no reason to suggest Strava were telling him to push beyond his skill level. If he chose to, that's up to him. He is free to make the decision and take the risk, and must also accept the consequences.

posted by step-hent [652 posts]
19th June 2012 - 14:39

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John Stevenson wrote:
I wonder if Strava's disclaimer is at all relevant anyway, since the people suing have not agreed to it.

Not relevant after the fact! But the family are likely suing through Mr Flint' estate, and would therefore be bound by the terms of use he agreed to.

posted by step-hent [652 posts]
19th June 2012 - 14:41

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Tony, I take your point and I guess if you look at it as enabling or encouraging the person to compete in an unsafe environment then there may be a case to answer. Personally though I still feel like it's a tool for recording your ride and comparing yourself against others, not a virtual racing system, and that if it went to court Strava would win.

However, I doubt it'll get that far. I suspect the family will be looking for as much publicity as possible (on the back of the other safe in SF where a rider using Strava ran down a pensioner) and settle out of court. Settling will still likely be cheaper for Strava than taking it to court and winning so it'll probably go that way.

posted by drheaton [3429 posts]
19th June 2012 - 14:53

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drheaton wrote:
cchead77 wrote:
With all due respect, this is a joke.

Why not sue the bike manufacture for making a bike that goes fast? or the bike shop that sold him the bike because surely without the bike he wouldn't have been tempted to get KOM. Surprise

I'd try suing God for creating the hills in the first place. Surely the fact that the hill exists is God's fault and I bet he doesn't put disclaimers on them all...

Try suing continental drift. That's what created the mountains, fact Smile

liam.cahill1's picture

posted by liam.cahill1 [41 posts]
19th June 2012 - 15:11

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I expect this to go away quietly. Considering that this action was filed in the US legal system, Strava should settle out of court. I suspect that they will settle for an undisclosed sum and make an public statement that they will do more to remove dangerous segments, while admitting no fault. While they would likely win if they took it to trial, they don't want to open themselves up to any possibility of liability related to their core business activities, or the floodgates of additional litigation could open.

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posted by pedalpowerDC [205 posts]
19th June 2012 - 15:22

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Agree that for small companies avoiding lawsuits is a good idea.

Anyone else remember the Halson Inversion mountain bike fork?

Halson wasted a year defending a patent on part of their design, by which time everyone else had a) figured out how to circumvent it and b) improved other aspects of their forks dramatically.

John Stevenson's picture

posted by John Stevenson [975 posts]
19th June 2012 - 15:59

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Can we sue the law firms for creating a suing culture and encouraging us to chase money and try to sue people? Ive wasted a lot of time and effort thinking up scams which have never come to fruition! Wink this time couldve been spent on something worthwile like chasing Strava records or becoming a pro cyclist. Therefore I am suing every legal team in the world for 450,000 Euros - the prize money paid to the winner of the Tour de France.

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posted by samjackson54 [60 posts]
19th June 2012 - 16:37

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Surely the manufacturer can't be held responsible for how fast someone wants to go, this is just madness ...

posted by Karbon Kev [667 posts]
19th June 2012 - 17:51

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Wow! What a surprise! Another moron dead in San Fran? Even better, the moron's family has "lawyered-up".

Actually the family should have to pay us for the time we've wasted listening to their argument. Common sense is not so common in California.

posted by dino [57 posts]
19th June 2012 - 21:26

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liam.cahill1 wrote:

Try suing continental drift. That's what created the mountains, fact Smile

LIKE BUTTON!

Talking of Strava, what is everyone's username?

Sir Velo

Raleigh's picture

posted by Raleigh [1728 posts]
19th June 2012 - 22:06

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This is why I try to create more "sensible" Strava segments that take into account traffic intersections, safe braking distances, etc.

There are a few user-created climb segments on my favorite roads that are nearly impossible to complete without stopping for a red light, yield, etc. so the KOTM is often the guy who is willing to blow a red light, fly through cross-traffic, etc. and not necessarily the strongest climber who has taken that route.

Similarly there are some idiotic descent segments that cross intersections, or the segment ends 20 feet from a wall or house so you'd have to nail the brakes long before the segment ends if you want to live.

The thing is, any sensible person would ride the way they normally ride--maybe digging a little deeper where they can, but not riding with blinders on. If you are cutting through cross-traffic or risking death or injury on yourself or others in the hopes of getting internet bragging rights, you are just a jackass, plain and simple.

posted by TheBigMong [218 posts]
19th June 2012 - 22:22

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Should we all follow each other?!

Mine is Dan flower

If I could have, say, 6 bikes, would it stop me drooling over others that I don't have?

posted by notfastenough [2953 posts]
19th June 2012 - 22:26

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I use Strava now and again to see how i am improving (or not) on a specific route but it doesn't mean that i go balls out every time to become 'Number 1'. It is unfortunate what has happened and no doubt it will happen again because some people always want to push the boundaries.

By the way, Strava have just updated their T&C's

Just remember, use your head to think, not to stop..... Wink

If that ride is important to you, you'll find a way to get it in!

road slapper's picture

posted by road slapper [92 posts]
20th June 2012 - 7:26

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Yeah, just got the updated Terms, this part is particularly relevant:

Quote:
YOU EXPRESSLY AGREE TO RELEASE STRAVA, ITS SUBSIDIARIES, AFFILIATES, OFFICERS, AGENTS, REPRESENTATIVES, EMPLOYEES, PARTNERS AND LICENSORS (THE “RELEASED PARTIES”) FROM ANY AND ALL LIABILITY CONNECTED WITH YOUR ATHLETIC ACTIVITIES, AND PROMISE NOT TO SUE THE RELEASED PARTIES FOR ANY CLAIMS, ACTIONS, INJURIES, DAMAGES, OR LOSSES ASSOCIATED WITH YOUR ATHLETIC ACTIVITIES. YOU ALSO AGREE THAT IN NO EVENT SHALL THE RELEASED PARTIES BE LIABLE TO YOU OR ANY THIRD PARTY FOR ANY DIRECT, INDIRECT, PUNITIVE, INCIDENTAL, SPECIAL OR CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES ARISING OUT OF OR IN ANY WAY CONNECTED WITH (a) YOUR USE OR MISUSE OF THE SITE, (b) YOUR USE OR MISUSE OF EQUIPMENT OR PROGRAMS CREATED OR LICENSED BY STRAVA WHILE ENGAGED IN ATHLETIC ACTIVITIES, (c) YOUR DEALINGS WITH THIRD PARTY SERVICE PROVIDERS OR ADVERTISERS AVAILABLE THROUGH THE SITE, (d) ANY DELAY OR INABILITY TO USE THE SITE EXPERIENCED BY YOU, (e) ANY INFORMATION, SOFTWARE, PRODUCTS, SERVICES OR CONTENT OBTAINED THROUGH THE SITE, WHETHER BASED ON CONTRACT, TORT, STRICT LIABILITY OR OTHERWISE, EVEN IF STRAVA HAS BEEN ADVISED OF THE POSSIBILITY OF DAMAGES. BECAUSE SOME STATES/JURISDICTIONS DO NOT ALLOW THE EXCLUSION OR LIMITATION OF LIABILITY FOR CONSEQUENTIAL OR INCIDENTAL DAMAGES, THE ABOVE LIMITATION MAY NOT APPLY TO YOU.

Sir Velo

Raleigh's picture

posted by Raleigh [1728 posts]
20th June 2012 - 10:24

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its crazy that Strava should even be worried - dont you just wish a judge would throw the case out on day one and get the claimant to pay all costs - stupidity and vindictiveness by the family - I read elsewhere that it was the wife who bought him the garmin for a present? then she is implicated too!

spindoctore's picture

posted by spindoctore [49 posts]
20th June 2012 - 10:34

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spindoctore wrote:
its crazy that Strava should even be worried - dont you just wish a judge would throw the case out on day one and get the claimant to pay all costs - stupidity and vindictiveness by the family - I read elsewhere that it was the wife who bought him the garmin for a present? then she is implicated too!

American system has no way for Strava to win and have the other party pay their costs, hence why so many of this litigations occur (no risk of having to oay defendents costs) and why so many are settled (because it's cheaper than paying for it to go to court and winning).

posted by drheaton [3429 posts]
20th June 2012 - 10:48

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What absolute sheee-iiiite. Shameful.

posted by jervais [18 posts]
20th June 2012 - 14:52

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andyp wrote:
'I'd try suing God for creating the hills in the first place. Surely the fact that the hill exists is God's fault and I bet he doesn't put disclaimers on them all...'

God doesn't exist, Strava does. Simple.

Don't think I'd try suing the old bearded One but I would strongly suggest to him that he fire down one of those thunderbolt thingies and incinerate the ambulance chasing attorney ***k who doubtless suggested this dastardly course of action to the grieving relatives in the first place. Assuming, of course, I believed in such things......

TiNuts's picture

posted by TiNuts [93 posts]
20th June 2012 - 19:47

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TiNuts wrote:
andyp wrote:
'I'd try suing God for creating the hills in the first place. Surely the fact that the hill exists is God's fault and I bet he doesn't put disclaimers on them all...'

God doesn't exist, Strava does. Simple.

Don't think I'd try suing the old bearded One but I would strongly suggest to him that he fire down one of those thunderbolt thingies and incinerate the ambulance chasing attorney ***k who doubtless suggested this dastardly course of action to the grieving relatives in the first place. Assuming, of course, I believed in such things......

well put

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2132 posts]
20th June 2012 - 22:22

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I hope common sense prevails in all of this and personal responsibility, and that those of us who use Strava don't let it interfere with cycling sensibly or the fun of cycling.

In my own experience Strava became a bit of a bossy parrot on my shoulder. I learnt that it needed a cage! Sometimes I just want to go and ride simply for 'feel' and at those times when I choose to let it out and it measures me up I am no less a person for losing a KOM or not gaining one.

I wonder if Strava will change its messages/messaging as a result of this?

Psyclyst

posted by Psyclyst [23 posts]
21st June 2012 - 10:58

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If you know a segment to be dangerous (goes through traffic lights, major junctions etc) then I suggest reporting them. It's a bit alarming when folk are saying they give it a go and hope to get through lights, even if they do yield to them. A minority are bound to chance it even if you don't. I know you're not responsible for them but let's all try and keep each other alive, eh? There will still be plenty of other segments around.

posted by BikeJon [36 posts]
21st June 2012 - 12:41

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Re following each other, RoadCC could create a "club" on it and people could join...

posted by Paul J [561 posts]
21st June 2012 - 12:58

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I'm pretty sure the email that so and so has taken your KOM is a new thing as I've only been getting them for a few months. Yet 1 or 2 of my KOMs were taken without Strava informing me. So maybe not part of the service 2 years ago.

Anyway my sentiments are the same as the majority here...

Sq

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posted by Squiggle [414 posts]
21st June 2012 - 14:07

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notfastenough wrote:
Should we all follow each other?!

Mine is Dan flower

My Strava name is Taylor Phinney Big Grin

Sq

Squiggle's picture

posted by Squiggle [414 posts]
21st June 2012 - 14:19

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BikeJon wrote:
If you know a segment to be dangerous (goes through traffic lights, major junctions etc) then I suggest reporting them. It's a bit alarming when folk are saying they give it a go and hope to get through lights, even if they do yield to them. A minority are bound to chance it even if you don't. I know you're not responsible for them but let's all try and keep each other alive, eh? There will still be plenty of other segments around.

I've tried leaving notes on the KOM/segment pages warning about the safety issues, so perhaps people would focus on safer alternate segments instead (I don't make segments that go through intersections or descents that end at some point well-after you should have applied the brakes) but there doesn't seem to be any way to do that. You click the button and nothing happens. And people usually prefer to focus on the climbing segments that go all the way to the summit rather than the ones that stop short because of an intersection. C'est la velo!

I don't use the Strava App at all while I'm riding. I use my Garmin Edge to log my ride, and I ride how I want, when I want, where I want. When I get home, I upload my ride to the Strava website and see my performance data there. I can see how some moron would be sitting there, head down, eyes glued to their smartphone screen while barreling right into a busy intersection, but the same thing happens in the car with GPS units, Facebook updates, etc. You just have to hope these idiots take themselves out of the gene pool without taking someone else out at the same time.

posted by TheBigMong [218 posts]
21st June 2012 - 15:47

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Psyclyst >They have changed the email when you lose a KOM from 'Now show them who is boss' 'to Now get out there, have fun and be safe.' Perhaps changed in last day or two!

posted by LamonicBibber [3 posts]
21st June 2012 - 21:26

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No, DRHEATON, you can't sue God--she doesn't exist. But the aforementioned family could sue the dad for siring the lad---no lad, no accident, innit.
Or possibly the hills might be sued for being aggressively big'n'lumpy. Honestly, these Lycra psychlists!
P.R.

PhilRuss

posted by PhilRuss [271 posts]
18th July 2012 - 2:11

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