United States District Court, D. Colorado
FINDINGS OF FACT, CONCLUSIONS OF LAW AND
Reid Neureiter Magistrate Judge
case is before the Court for all purposes pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 636(c), upon the consent of the parties (Dkt.
#14) and the Order of Reference entered by Chief Judge Marcia
S. Krieger on June 12, 2018 (Dkt. #15). This is a negligence
case, brought against the United States under the Federal
Tort Claims Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1346(b), 2671, and 2680
(FTCA), by Jeremy Lawhon. Mr. Lawhon claims that the driver
of a Bureau of Prisons passenger van acted negligently in
making a U-turn in front of Lawhon, without seeing him,
causing him to crash into the side of the van on his
Court held a three-day bench trial on August 7-9, 2019. At
trial, the parties presented argument and evidence, including
the testimony of the Plaintiff Lawhon, the investigating
Aurora Police Officer, three medical providers, and Bureau of
Prisons (BOP) employee Tracy Kohoano (the allegedly negligent
driver), as well as exhibits in support of their positions.
At the conclusion of the trial, this Court announced certain
findings of fact, and took other issues of law and fact under
advisement. The Court now enters its Findings of Fact,
Conclusions of Law and Order.
FINDINGS OF FACT
case arises out of a motorcycle accident that occurred on
East 30thStreet in Denver near Peoria Street on
August 18, 2016.
that date, Mr. Lawhon was riding a 1998 Honda CBR 600
motorcycle east on 30th Street towards Peoria Street.
May 11, 2016, Mr. Lawhon had entered into a written contract
to buy the motorcycle from an acquaintance, Tyrra Bohannon.
Pl's Exh 5. The written contract placed the value of the
motorcycle at $1, 200, although it was not in a running
condition and needed new tires at the time the contract was
Lawhon agreed to pay for the motorcycle by promising to do
certain jobs and tasks for Mr. Bohannon. Mr. Bohannon
transferred possession of the motorcycle to Mr. Lawhon.
Lawhon had prior experience and training as a mechanic and
was capable of doing the work to put the motorcycle in
Lawhon had been riding motorcycles since he was young and
previously had owned a number of motorcycles, including two
Honda Goldwings and a Honda Interceptor. He also had years of
experience riding dirt bikes.
Lawhon did not have a valid motorcycle endorsement on his
license and had never taken a motorcycle safety course.
a few days before the accident, Mr. Lawhon had successfully
gotten the CBR 600 motorcycle running and had also spent $250
on new tires. Mr. Lawhon did some, but not all, of the tasks
he had promised to do for Mr. Bohannon in exchange for the
approximately 3:00 pm on August 18, 2016, Mr. Lawhon was
riding the motorcycle home from a junkyard where he had gone
to buy a part for a friend's car. Mr. Lawhon was
traveling 25-30 mph east on East 30th Street when
he saw approximately 450 feet ahead of him several large
white BOP passenger vans. One of the vans appeared to Mr.
Lawhon to be parking or trying to park.
Mr. Lawhon approached the van from the rear, Mr. Lawhon tried
to make eye contact with the driver of the van to ensure that
she saw him. But she did not make eye contact and pulled out
to do a U-turn across the east-bound lane of traffic and
directly in front of Mr. Lawhon on the motorcycle. Mr. Lawhon
applied the brakes hard and tried to avoid the collision but
was unable to do so and crashed into the driver's side
door of the B.O.P. van.
find that Mr. Lawhon acted reasonably and was not at fault in
causing the accident. He testified credibly as to what he saw
and observed prior to the crash as well as his failed effort
to avoid the collision. Mr. Lawhon's testimony regarding
the specifics of the crash is generally corroborated by the
testimony of the investigating Aurora Police Officer who was
qualified as an accident reconstruction expert. Mr.
Lawhon's testimony is also corroborated by the
photographs of the scene, and the damage to both the
motorcycle and the B.O.P. van.
investigating Aurora Police Officer (trained in traffic
accident reconstruction) estimated that the accident occurred
at approximately 20 miles per hour. There is no evidence that
Mr. Lawhon was speeding or riding recklessly.
driver's side of the BOP van was dented from the crash.
motorcycle was damaged and appeared to be leaking fluid.
Lawhon's body was thrown against the side of the van by
Lawhon, upset and shaken by the crash, jumped up and yelled
at the driver of the van. He later sat down on the side of
the street to wait for the emergency medical technicians who
would transport him to University of Colorado Hospital on
van driver, Ms. Kohoano, testified that she checked her
mirrors-rear and side-and tried to see if there was any
traffic behind her before executing her U-turn. One of her
passengers yelled out “Tracey” just before the
impact. Ms. Kohoano may have looked, but she did not look
carefully enough, and, as she admits, did not see Mr. ...