A New Jersey man and his wife have been awarded $3.2 million in damages after a Philadelphia jury found the city of Philadelphia liable for his injuries. On May 17, 2015, Anthony Degliomini was riding his bike as part of the inaugural Phillies Charities Bike Ride when he hit a large hole just before crossing the finish line. Although he was wearing a helmet, he flew over the handlebars, hit the pavement, and was knocked unconscious. He was hospitalized for five days at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital before being transferred to Magee Rehabilitation Hospital, where he stayed for an additional 20 days. His attorneys say that his injuries were severe, including an injury to his spinal cord that necessitated the implantation of rods and screws to fuse his spine together.
Degliomini’s attorneys argued during the trial that the city of Philadelphia knew of the sinkhole before issuing the event permit to its organizers because it was visible on Google Earth images in October 2014, nine months before the event. They said that the city’s attempt to patch the sinkhole prior to the event failed because it was treated like a routine pothole. There was even debate during the trial over whether the hole in question was actually a “pothole” or a “sinkhole.” The hole measured 16 square feet in diameter and was six inches deep. Degliomini argued that this qualifies as a sinkhole, while the city of Philadelphia argued that it was merely a pothole. Either way, the jury sided with the plaintiff.
Holes and broken pavement present a serious issue for cyclists since they can cause a bicycle to stop abruptly, throwing the rider over the handlebars. And even if the rider is wearing a helmet, he or she could still suffer facial and spinal cord injuries like the plaintiff in the above case. In Philadelphia alone, the city repaired 30,000 potholes last year and is on track to repair approximately 44,000 this year. City officials say that this year is particularly challenging for potholes because of the constant freezing and thawing that the region has experienced, which helps to create potholes.