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Man claims the City neglected the roadway that caused him to fall off his bicycle

PMG PHOTO: CLARA HOWELL  - William Sleeper's wheels crossed a sewer manhole and he lost control of his bike in 2017.A West Linn resident is suing the City of Lake Oswego for more than half a million after he fell off his bicycle and suffered multiple injuries caused by a "dangerously defective roadway surface and manhole," the lawsuit reads.

William Sleeper filed a claim against the City Sept. 25, 2019, alledging the City was negligent in the maintenance of its roadways and pathways.

Two years ago, Sleeper was riding his bike down McVey Avenue toward State Street in the bike lane on the east side of the road just before its intersection with Laurel Street. The wheels of his bike crossed the sewer manhole and Sleeper lost control of his bike. In a violent crash, he fractured his clavicle, infra-spinous scapular body and parts of his ribs. He also suffered several other injuries like strains and sprains.

Sleeper is suing the City for an amount that would not exceed $695,000 for surgical procedures to treat his injuries, post-operative care, medical bills, physical limitations and mental distress, pain and anguish.

The lawsuit claims that the City negligently "designed, installed, constructed, and/or maintained sanitary sewer manhole ... (the) manhole cover, or subgrade under and adjacent to the manhole and/or the roadway pavement and surface grading abutting the manole was uneven and improperly designed, placed, graded, compacted, inspected, and/or maintained."

PMG PHOTO: CLARA HOWELL  - William Sleeper was riding his bike down McVey Avenue just before its intersection with Laurel Street when he crashed and seriously injured himself.According to the lawsuit, the Oregon Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan requires the rim and cover of the manhole to be within one-fourth inch of the adjacent roadway surface or to be at the same level with the roadway. The City's engineering department provides construction details and design specifications for sanitary sewer manholes that don't exceed one-fourth inch between the manhole and the roadway surface.

The lawsuit claims there was approximately two inches of space between the sewer manhole cover and the roadway surface at the time of the accident, which caused the manhole to be slightly lower than the pavement on the uphill side of the manhole.

The lawsuit further claims that the area where Sleeper was riding his bike was a designated "community connector pathway," according to the Lake Oswego Trails and Pathways Master Plan. The Master Plan adopted and incorporated AASHTO Guide standards and rules, which mandates that "A smooth riding surface should be provided and utility covers should be adjusted flush with the surface ... Utility covers should be placed or adjusted to be flush with the adjacent pavement surface" and "Drainage grates and manhole covers should be located outside the travel path of bicyclists."

"The manhole, as is exists, doesn't violate any codes or regulations. It's very slightly lower than the pavement on the uphill side, but not to a degree that violates requirements or that would have caused this accident," said Lake Oswego City Attorney David Powell. "It's unfortunate that this gentleman was hurt, but he didn't lose control of his bike as a result of any City negligence."

No trial date has been set yet.


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