Jury awards Austin-area bicyclist hit by car $865K

Bobby Couch's bicycle used as evidence in his suit against the driver who hit him

When a truck collided with Robert Crouch as he was riding his bicycle on Barton Creek Boulevard in May 2013, it left Crouch's spine broken in four places. Patrick Linton of Austin was on his cell phone at the time, according to court documents. So Crouch sued Linton.

Friday, the jury came back with its decision. "We decided that the plaintiff needed to be compensated, but not to the degree that was asked," juror Lyndsey Christena told KEYE TV. Crouch received $865,000 in compensatory damages, but the jury did not find gross negligence, so Crouch did not receive punitive damages. "Since he still had functionality and was doing things he liked to do even if it was to a lesser degree, they felt like he shouldn't be compensated as much," Christena said.

But the founder of Please Be Kind To Cyclists, disagrees. "We've been following this case," said Alvaro Bastidas. The collision happened outside of Austin city limits, and before Austin's hands-free ordinance went into effect. Still, Bastidas thinks an example should have been made. "Having to drop the gross negligence case, uh, charge? What message are we sending? Is it OK to text and drive? Is it OK to use your phone?" he asked.

Linton was never criminally charged. His attorney had no comment after the jury's decision. But Crouch's attorney, Jason Billick, says this isn't the final word on distracted driving. "This time, the jury found that the conduct was not grossly negligent, but we live to fight another day," Billick said.

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