Califorinia amateur cyclist Juan Carlos Vinolo has been awarded a $24 million USD payout after an auto driver high on methamphetamine crashed into a group of cyclists on Fiesta Island in 2014, leaving Vinolo paralyzed for life.
August 12 2014 began liken an ordinary Tuesday for Vinolo as he kissed his wife and children goodbye to headed out for an evening group training ride. It is a routine that hundreds of thousands of cyclists repeat every week around the world. His parting words, “I’ll see you in a few hours!”
He met up with the San Diego Bike Club on Fiesta Island to ride fast laps on a 6.6 kilometre one-way loop. The island has served as a safe training and time trial race course for cyclists in San Diego and Southern California for over 30 years.
A few hours later Vinolo was fighting for his life at UC San Diego Medical Center after Theresa Owens, now 56, plowed head-on into the group of 20 riders while driving the wrong way on the one-way road under the influence of methamphetamine.
Owens was found guilty of driving under the influence of a controlled substance, possession of methamphetamine and driving into a group of bicyclists. She was found guilty on all counts and sentenced to 19 years in prison at the California Institution for Women in Corona, where she currently remains.
The court also decided the City of San Diego was partly to blame for crash, siting blind corners on the one-way Fiesta Island Road were made more dangerous by neglect, impairing visibility due to overgrown bushes and high berms. City officials acknowledged the neglect, but never addressed it.
Attorneys for the city tried to argued in court that cycling quickly in a tight formation is a “hazardous recreational activity,” and engaging in such activities can legally disqualify people from seeking damages.
It didn’t work.
On Tuesday 16 November 2021, The San Diego City Council unanimously approved a $23.75 million USD payout to Juan Carlos Vinolo, rather than pursuing a risky jury trial that experts forecast would likely lead to a $60M award – or more.
PHOTOS: KUSI, Vinolo, California State Court