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Paving company settles lawsuit over bike crash

Plaintiff alleged road was negligently constructed

The family of a 9-year-old girl who suffered a catastrophic brain injury during a bike crash received a $1.5 million settlement from the company that paved the road where she crashed. Other parties involved in the road’s construction also settled prior to this case, bringing the family’s total settlement amount to $8.375 million.

On June 24, 2005, Hailey Kramer crashed her bike off a subdivision street in St. Charles County. Hailey was not wearing a bike helmet. No one witnessed the crash, and Hailey suffered a catastrophic brain injury, resulting in spastic quadriplegia. Hailey is a triplet — one of her brothers, Jake, was riding ahead of her on the other side of the road, and turned back after he heard her fall.

The children’s mother, Robin Kramer, sued the parties involved in constructing the road where Hailey crashed. Attorneys argued the road was negligently constructed — its cross slope was supposed to have a 2 percent grade, but in some areas, the slope reached a 7.5 percent grade, according to attorney Jim O’Leary.

Before it was paved in 1997, the road was made of gravel, and the Kramers’ attorneys argued the road had settled from weather and construction traffic in the 14 months between its initial excavation and final pavement.

“It had been excavated by another company, but the latest defendant was supposed to go back, regrade it and pave it. They didn’t grade it. They just rolled it and paved it. That was our explanation about why it was so steep,” O’Leary said.

John Schultz and Jason Moore, attorneys for Krupp Construction Co., did not return a message seeking comment.

Because there were no eyewitnesses, O’Leary enlisted the help of accident reconstructionist James Green and computer animator Anand Kaspekar, both based in North Carolina, to recreate the scene. Kaspekar used a laser scanner to obtain precise measurements of the road, and based on where Hailey and the bike came to rest, Green worked backward to calculate angles and speeds. Kaspekar used the data to build a video animation of the crash.

The case resolved a week before trial was scheduled to begin, O’Leary said. Previous defendants had included Bax Development Inc. and J.C. Bax Construction Co., which settled for $700,000 each; John Bax, who settled for $300,000; and three trustees of the Forest Lake Estates Trust Indenture, who each settled for $300,000. Howell & Sons Excavating Co. Inc.; All Type Excavating Inc.; and Burke’s Landscape & Retaining Wall Systems were initially listed as parties to the case.

Hailey, now 14, is unable to walk or speak, but she communicates with her brothers and parents through movements and gestures, O’Leary said. The family installed pulleys and ramps throughout the house to be able to move her around, and she receives nursing care during the day, he said.

“She needs care around the clock. She will never be self-sufficient,” he said.

■ $1.5 million settlement

Negligent construction

Court: St. Charles County Circuit Court

Case Number/Date: 0711-CV08234/Aug. 17, 2010

Plaintiff’s Experts: James Green, P.E., Asheville, N.C. (accident reconstruction); Anand Kaspekar, Ph.D., Raleigh, N.C. (mechanical engineering and computer animation); Jerry Williams, St. Louis (surveying); Brian Frist, M.D., Atlanta, Ga. (forensic pathology and medicine); Michael Noetzel, M.D., St. Louis (medical-diagnostic specialties); Penelope Caragonne, Ph.D., Laredo, Texas (life care planning); Thomas Ireland, Ph.D., St. Louis (accounting, damages, economics)

Defendant’s Experts: Steven McKinzie, Kansas City (accident reconstruction); William Guerdan, P.E., St. Louis (civil engineering); Leon Kazarian, Ph.D., Dayton, Ohio (science); Terrance Smith, Ph.D., Los Angeles, Calif. (helmet and head protection); Robert Shavelle, Ph.D., San Francisco, Calif. (life expectancy)

Insurer: United Fire Group

Caption: Hailey Kramer, a minor, by and through her next friend, Robin Kramer, v. L.F. Krupp Construction Co.

Plaintiff’s Attorneys: James D. O’Leary Jr. and James T. Corrigan, Onder, Shelton O’Leary & Peterson, LLC, St. Louis

Defendant’s Attorneys: John Schultz and Jason Moore, Franke, Schultz & Mullen, Kansas City