Jury Verdict In Colorado
Press release: On June 21, 2017, a civil jury of nine Coloradans in the United States District Court for Colorado in Denver completed a Verdict Form that awarded damages against AZ Asphalt, LLC, a Gunnison County business, and Saul Diaz-Sabas, his employee driver, in the 2015 death of Dale Thomas. The United States District Court Judge ordered that jury verdict become a final judgment on August 2, 2017.
Ellen Petrick and her attorney, Brian Weiss of Crawford Weiss – Bike Law Colorado, filed a lawsuit to seek justice and prove that Dale Thomas was a victim of unsafe choices made by AZ Asphalt, LLC and Diaz-Sabas. Dale Thomas is greatly missed and loved by his family, and friends. Dale Thomas will be remembered as an honest Gunnison businessman, cyclist, and community member. More specifically, Dale Thomas owned of Rocky Mountain Log and Antler Furnishings, raced bicycles competitively, and recorded thousands of miles riding his bicycle each year in and around Gunnison.
The jury’s decision in the civil wrongful death conclusively showed that Defendants AZ Asphalt, LLC and Diaz-Sabas, who was 16 years old at the time and driving without a license, were responsible for the crash that resulted in Thomas’ death on Highway 135 between Gunnison and Crested Butte. For the two years before trial, the Defendants refused to accept responsibility and blamed Thomas which made the loss even worse for Thomas’ family. Now that a long jury trial is over, the verdict shows that Dale Thomas’s tragic death was the fault of AZ Asphalt, LLC and Diaz-Sabas.
The facts of the crash that killed Dale Thomas are as follows: on the afternoon of June 19, 2015, John Michael Collins, the owner of AZ Asphalt, asked his employee Diaz-Sabas to drive a Dodge pickup truck pulling a trailer with a skid steer back to his ranch. On the drive to Collins’ ranch, Diaz-Sabas cut off Thomas, who was riding his bicycle on the shoulder of the road, as he made a turn from Highway 135 onto County Road 8. Thomas was struck and run over by the trailer and died at the scene of catastrophic injuries.
Colorado State Patrol Troopers responded to the scene and did a thorough investigation of the crash, citing both Collins and Diaz-Sabas. However, in Colorado, the traffic citations and the guilty pleas that were entered are not admissible in the civil case.
There were two eyewitnesses tot eh crash that testified at court. One eyewitness was from Boulder, Colorado, he saw the crash spoke to the Troopers immediately after the crash. This witness told the police verbally and in writing that “the cyclist was obeying all traffic laws and could not have prevented this in any way.” Another witness from Buena Vista had a completely different version of the crash, and said that the cyclist rode intot he trailer while he was not looking where he was going. The story of the witness from Buena Vista changed over time and that witness was impeached at trial.
Despite the Colorado State Patrol determination that Diaz-Sabas drove crelessly and caused the death of Thomas, AZ Asphalt, LLC, Collins, Diaz-Sabas, and their insurer State Auto Insurance Company refused to accept responsibility for the crash and instead continued to blamed Thomas all the way through trial. The jury saw through the smoke and mirrors defense and made the following findings:
DETAILS OF THE JURY VERDICT ARE AS FOLLOWS:
Noneconomic Damages: $400,000.00 (note the cap in Colorado is $436,070.00)
Economic Damages: $68,810.00
Punitive Damages: $100,000.00