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September 8, 2020

Bicycle vs. Car Door in MMA Drama Series 'Kingdom' | Cup of Joe

Bicycle vs. Car Door in MMA Drama Series 'Kingdom'

There is a series that is being aired by Netflix, called Kingdom, that is making a lot of noise.  This is what it's about: 

Alvey Kulina, owns and runs a mixed martial arts gym called Navy St. Gym in Venice, California, with his girlfriend, Lisa. (Wait – don’t go anywhere yet. The show is not just about MMA fighting.)

Alvey trains fighters along with his sons, Nate and Jay. Jay has a drug and alcohol problem, but puts it aside to start fighting again and Nate is dealing with personal issues as well. Ryan Wheeler used to be a great fighter who left Alvey when he got big until he was sent to prison after brutally assaulting his father. After Ryan's release, Alvey wants him to fight again and be his trainer as it would be good publicity for the gym. Lisa is initially opposed to this, as she and Ryan used to be engaged, but eventually accepts it for the sake of the gym. Alvey's estranged ex-wife, Christina, is a drug addict and sex worker, with sporadic contact with Kulina and her sons. 

Kingdom is about real life; not just about the action-packed, violent world of MMA fighting. It is about that and the mundane problems that we all have to deal with. Which brings us, finally, to this week’s case.


Background

While Nate trains Jay at the gym, Alvey — fresh off an eventful night — heads over to check on Ryan at Ryan’s house. Just as Alvey goes to get out of his car, he hits a cyclist with his car door. Alvey is instantly fed up with the situation. The cyclist is claiming he broke his collarbone, so Alvey calls an ambulance.  The bicyclist sues Alvey. Unfortunately, Alvey let his insurance lapse and has to pay for his own lawyer.

This is a dramatization of Alvey’s trial.  The first issue is this: who was at fault? The bicyclist or Alvey?


Testimony of Alvey

Q: What do you do for a living?

A:  I own and operate the Navy Street Gym. 

Q: You were involved in an accident?

A: Yeah. I almost got killed by that idiot on his bike.

Q: Where were you when you were almost killed?

A: Parked out front of 3092 Buckingham Road…engine off. I went to get out and…BAM! This guy on a bike smashes into my door. 

Q: What side of the car did you get out on?

A: The driver’s side.

Q: And your driver’s side was the street in the flow of traffic or the sidewalk.

A: Street side. I never saw the guy coming. 

Q: What happened to the guy?

A: He fell off his bike and he was just sitting on the street complaining about his collarbone.

Q: His clavicle?

A: Whatever. His clavicle.

Q: Did the police come to the scene of the accident?

A: Yes.

Q: And you gave an officer your statement?

A: Yes.

Q: I am handing you the police report.

ALVEY’S ATTORNEY: OBJECTION! That report is hearsay.

BICYCLIST’S ATTORNEY: Your Honor, the testimony will show that the statement on the report is Avery’s statement to the officer on the scene. Therefore, it is a party admission and it is not hearsay. 

JUDGE: OVERRULED! But only the portion of the report that constitutes the admission by Avery will be allowed into evidence.

Q: Yes, Your Honor. Now, Alvey, I just want to direct your attention to the description  portion of the accident, The report states: "Owner of vehicle No.1 states he was exiting his car and opened her door never seeing the bicyclist. He struck the bicyclist on the bike.” Is that what you told the officer?

A: Yes.


Testimony of Bicyclist

Q: What were you doing just before Alvey opened the door?

A: I was riding my bike on the right side of the street when Avery opened his door right in front of me. I had no time to react. It was a horrible collision. I was really hurt.

ALVEY’S ATTORNEY: OBJECTION! I move to strike everything in the answer after “I had no time to react.” Everything else in non-responsive to the question.  The question was “What were you doing?”  No one asked for a description of the impact.

JUDGE: SUSTAINED! That objection is sustained! The jury will disregard everything after “I had no time to react.” Everything else will be stricken from the record.

Q: Nothing else for this witness, Your Honor. May we approach the bench?

JUDGE: Come on up.

AT SIDEBAR: Your Honor, there is nothing for the jury to decide with respect to fault. Clearly, Avery caused this accident by failing to check his side-view or rear-view mirror to make sure it was safe to open the door.     

Opening his door onto Buckinham Road when it was not safe to do so, constitutes negligence as a matter of law and was the sole proximate cause of the accident. The actions of Alvey in opening his door into traffic, which he admitted to the police officer on the scene, violated VTL § 1214 

JUDGE: Well, let’s have a look at "§ 1214.  I am reading the statute into the record: 

“No person shall open the door of a motor vehicle on the side available to moving traffic unless and until it is reasonably safe to do so, and can be done without interfering with the movement of other traffic..."

Counsel for the defense, would you like to be heard?

ALVEY’S ATTORNEY: Yes, Your Honor. Thank you.  The jury should be permitted to decide whether the bicyclist used reasonable care to avoid being hit by the opening door. That is a question of fact that should be decided by the jury, not by Your Honor.

JUDGE: Normally, comparative negligence should be determined by the jury. But…here, there is no evidence presented that would even suggest that the bicyclist could have done anything to prevent this accident. For example, if the plaintiff had any indication that Avery’s car was occupied or whether the bike was going too fast. I am sorry, counsel. I am not letting the issue of fault go to this jury. Avery was the cause of this accident and there is no dispute that the bicyclist was injured. So the jury will only have to decide damages – how much money the bicyclist should be awarded.


Conclusion

And that’s that for Alvey. He will have to pay whatever the jury awards and he will have to pay his own lawyer. Usually, your insurance company provides you with a lawyer (a defense) and they will pay the settlement or judgment up to the limit of your policy.(indemnify). 

NOTE: In Kingdom, Alvey’s lawyer convinced Alvey to settle the case for $175,000 before the case was even litigated. 

A few lessons: 

  • Don’t open your door into traffic unless you are sure it is safe to do so.
  • Make sure you pay your insurance premiums so that you don’t end up with a lapse in coverage like Alvey.
  • Kingdom is a useful show.  

Click HERE for a decision that involves an accident between a bike and a car door.

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