A jury in Nevada has awarded damages of $18.7 million against the manufacturers of a tour bus after finding that a flaw in its aerodynamic design led to the death of a cyclist last year.
Dr Kavyan Khiabani, head of hand and microsurgery at the University of Nevada, Reno, School of Medicine, was killed in April 2017 when he was pulled under the bus as he rode alongside it in a cycle lane, reports Courtroom View Network (CVN).
Witnesses described how he appeared to veer suddenly towards the 2008 model bus made by North America’s largest manufacturer of buses and coaches, Motor Coach Industries (MCI).
Lawyers for the company, whose insurers reportedly tried to settle the product liability case for $1 million during the month-long trial, had argued that the bus complied with relevant federal safety regulations and that Dr Khiabani had swerved towards the bus, causing the fatal collision.
William Kemp, acting for the victim’s family, maintained that due to its aerodynamic design, the front right of the tour bus exerted a pulling force of 20 pounds whereas other buses with aerodynamic designs exerted no such force.
As a result, the manufacturer should have been aware of the risk posed to cyclists by the vehicle’s design, he argued.
Following the jury’s verdict, he told CVN: “Plaintiffs hope that the verdict stimulates the manufacturers of large buses and trucks to design safer vehicles that are not aerodynamically dangerous.”
He said that the scale of MCI’s operations meant that “any changes made by it will quickly benefit society.”
Kemp added: “This case should be remembered as the first product liability case against a bus manufacturer to recover for poor aerodynamic design.
“Because there are hundreds of thousands of buses and large trucks on the road today that also have bad aerodynamic design that impacts millions of unwary bicyclists they pass, other like lawsuits are inevitable.”
Dr Khiabani’s wife, Dr Katayoun Barin Khiaban, died in October last year from colon cancer. Like her husband, she was born in Iran and moved to Canada with her family. The couple met at McGill University in Montreal and are survived by their teenage sons Keon and Aria.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.