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Family of cyclist Rodney Smith files wrongful death lawsuit

Original post made on Dec 5, 2007

A more detailed picture of the circumstances surrounding the car accident that killed cyclist and former Altera Corp. chief executive Rodney Smith of Portola Valley in May may be forthcoming now that a wrongful death lawsuit has been filed against the driver by Mr. Smith's family.


Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, December 4, 2007, 9:07 PM

Comments (11)

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Posted by Richard
a resident of another community
on Dec 5, 2007 at 1:46 pm

Interesting comments on CHP crash reconstruction. If all cars were required to have "black boxes" like those in airplanes this would be more science than guesswork. Some car makers are including data recorders, but the Bush administration refuses to support regulations to make them mandatory. The result is that police spend hours trying to determine simple things such as vehicle speed that would be immediately available from a black box. In the end they have only an estimate that can be questioned in court instead of a reliable datum. We all end up paying for this, and I would rather pay a known fixed fee up front with a vehicle purchase than be paying indirectly for the time of cops whose time would be better spent out on duty.


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Posted by Kerry
a resident of Woodside: Family Farm/Hidden Valley
on Dec 5, 2007 at 4:08 pm

I sure wish Mr. O'Reilly was in the passenger seat of my car about a year ago to witness when a cyclist flipped a u-turn direclty in front of me, at practically the same spot where this accident occurred, on east bound Sand Hill. I had a clear view of the cyclist a long way back and he never once looked over his shoulder to check traffic. He didn't look up until he was in front of my car looking through my windshield at me. I had to jerk the wheel so sharply to avoid hitting him that I almost lost control of my car, it was a terrifying experience. Good thing there weren't other cyclists or cars right there, otherwise this would have turned into a horrible accident.

I agree with Mr. O'Reilly, it is nuts to u-turn into Sand Hill traffic. Hopefully the cyclists that are doing this dangerous stunt will stop!!


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Posted by Ann
a resident of Menlo Park: Stanford Hills
on Dec 5, 2007 at 6:37 pm

I, too, have had to avoid cyclists when driving on Sand Hill Rd. Most of the time they don't even stay in the bike lane, and it makes it difficult to pass them. I think everyone should give Mr. Rose a break. It sounds like the CHP did their job, and concluded that the bicyclist was at fault, not the driver. Just because Mr. Rose is an elderly gentleman does not mean that he is an incompetent driver. Mr. Rose just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. My heart goes out to the widow of Mr. Smith, but filing a lawsuit against Mr. Rose is not going bring her husband back.


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Posted by Just the facts
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Dec 6, 2007 at 2:44 pm

Attorney O'Reilly's interview is riddled with speculation and inconsistencies:

O'Reilly: "Taking a U turn into Sand Hill traffic would be nuts," he told the Almanac".

Yet in the next paragraph, Ms. Smith: "...pointed to a reflective marker where they would "ALWAYS TURN AROUND"... That spot was two feet east of where Mr. Smith collided with the car"

The report: "Describes Mr. Rose as seeing a bicyclist 50 to 100 feet ahead of him and about a foot inside the bike lane. When Mr. Rose was "several feet behind" him, the cyclist 'suddenly turned to look over his left shoulder,' then turned sharply into traffic. 'I had no time to react,' Mr. Rose is quoted as saying."

Mr. O'Reilly: "Disputed that account...there were no skid marks at the scene, which leads Mr. O'Reilly to conclude that Mr. Rose did not immediately realize what had happened"

It would seem that if one didn't have time to react, there would be no skid marks, what exactly is he disputing?

Mr. O'Reilly: "disputed the idea that Mr. Smith was hit by the front end of a car"

The report: "Mr. Rose's 1995 Volvo had a broken right headlight, two large round dents in the right front quarter panel, a large hole in the passenger side windshield, and a dent in the roof above that hole"

So if he wasn't hit by the front end of the car, where all the damage is noted, what part of the car hit him?

Mr. O'Reilly condescendingly refers to Mr. Rose as "this old fellow", but Mr. Smith was pushing 70 himself.

O'Reilly: "The lawsuit does not specify an amount of damages and is not meant to be punitive".

What a crock.

This accident involved two outstanding and long time members of the Portola Valley community. I can only imagine the pain and suffering of all involved, apparantly it wasn't enough.

It's sick, sad and disgusting that this man and the firm he represents are seeking to capitalize on such a tragic accident with a lawsuit filled with baseless accusations. Mrs. Smith and her family obviously don't need the money. It makes me wonder how these people can even sleep at night.





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Posted by Kerry's Brother
a resident of another community
on Dec 6, 2007 at 4:21 pm

Kerry, we both know you drive like a bat out of hell.


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Posted by Kerry's Brother
a resident of another community
on Dec 6, 2007 at 4:39 pm

All kidding aside, I too have witnessed unreasonably dangerous behavior by bicyclist on that stretch of road when visiting my sister. Cyclists in Southern California (where I live) actually respect the consequences of a collision with a motor vehicle, and I am unaware of any other location in California in which bicyclist "share" the road so recklessly.

If I were Mr. Rose, I would counterclaim for negligent infliction of emotional distress and property damage to my vehicle. The bicyclist negligently caused the accident, and his estate should pay for the harm Mr. Rose has suffered as a result.


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Posted by Steve Schmidt
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Dec 6, 2007 at 7:35 pm

First, to Ann, who stated, "Most of the time they (bicyclists) don't even stay in the bike lane" while she is driving her car on Sand Hill Road: I've been cycling several times a week and driving on Sand Hill for over 35 years. My memory is still good and I don't remember one time that I have seen a cyclist riding outside the bike lane.

Second, Actually there was one skid mark at the scene of the accident, made by a bicycle tire. It was about one foot to the right of the bike lane stripe, parallel to it, about one foot long and it had been marked with spray paint, apparently by the accident investigators. If Mr. Smith had been turning across the road as the CHP and Mr. Rose claim, how could such a mark be made by a bicycle hit broadside? What was the condition of the rear wheel of Mr. Smith's bike after the collision?

Finally, it saddens me to see so much venom directed at bicyclists following this and other personal tragedies involving cyclists run down by motorists.

The lawsuit is hardly an exercise in futility. Through the process of discovery there will be an opportunity to resolve the questions that linger about this tragic event.

Steve Schmidt


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Posted by Steve Schmidt
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Dec 6, 2007 at 8:28 pm

Of course I've seen bicyclists merge across traffic lanes to make left turns and to cross 280. All perfectly OK with the California Vehicle Code. Sorry to leave that out.


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Posted by Menlo Biker
a resident of Menlo Park: Stanford Hills
on Dec 10, 2007 at 10:47 am

I'm with Steve Schmidt on this one -- put your biases away and let there be discovery on both sides. I don't like hearing that they typically did a U-turn in that area, but I'd want clarification on the skid mark, especially one in the bike lane. And a bike hit broadside by a Volvo at 50 mph would be completely trashed. So far it doesn't sound like the damage pattern agrees with that.

I've been riding that stretch of road twice a week for years and have yet to see anyone more than a foot outside the bike lane, and then only to go around an obstacle. I've been honked at for barely crossing the line to get around an obstacle (by an SUV driver going 60+ on a clear road, and I did look to see if there was anyone behind me) so I know there's an anti-biker attitude out there. Drivers in Menlo Park will go around a pedestrian but get angry at a biker for being in their lane. Even without the attitude problem there are too many instances of bikers being killed by inattentive drivers, so it's plausible that this was another example of that. And who always loses in car vs. bike?

Let's not assume. Why are you automatically believing the driver's story -- merely because he's the only one left alive?


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Posted by Nice
a resident of Woodside: other
on Dec 11, 2007 at 3:37 pm

Web Link

The CHP found Rose to not at fault. I guess Ms. Smith and the ambulance chaser want to attempt to change that finding? Since she is very wealthy she can do that. Perhaps her efforts and her money could be spent on something more worthwhile to society than to clear her dead husbands name from being at fault for his accident?


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Posted by Peninsula Cyclist
a resident of Portola Valley: Central Portola Valley
on Jan 2, 2008 at 9:57 am

I find Steve Schmidt's comment about the exsistance of a bike skid mark at the scene of the accident and it's pertinance to it interesting.

That skid mark could have been made by the any number of bikes that have travelled that lane at any time prior to the accident. I'm sure that CHP investigators have ways to determine how and when the mark came to be.

Even more interesting that Smith's own attorney states the absence of skid marks at the scene. It would only further serve as evidence that the skid mark Steve saw was irrelevant.

If anything, given the wealth and status of Rodney Smith, the CHP would be overly cautious in their investigation and it's outcome.


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