Parents sue cycling website for complicity in son’s death

Kim Flint: died riding his bike in Tilden Park in June 2010

The parents of a man who was killed while riding his bicycle in Tilden Park in 2010 is suing Strava, the social media cycling organization they believe contributed to his death.

William and Kathleen Flint filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Strava in San Francisco Superior Court on Monday June 18 for “encouraging dangerous behavior.”

William Flint II, known as Kim, died June 19, 2010 around 2:00 pm when he hit a car while riding his bicycle down South Park Drive in Tilden Park. Flint, 40, had been going around a curve when his bicycle drifted into the other lane, according to East Bay Regional Park police.

Flint may have been trying to recapture a speed record that he had set – and then lost – on the Strava social media site. Strava allows cyclists to clock their times and speeds using GPS and upload them to a website. Cyclists can then compare their performance with that of other cyclists. Those who go the fastest can win “KOM” or “King of the Mountain” titles.

Kim Flint had raced down South Park Road on June 6, 2010 in 2 minutes and 7 seconds, reaching a top speed of 49.3 miles per hour, according to his Twitter posts. The speed limit on South Park Drive, which is a steep grade, is 30 miles per hour.

“49.3 mph, on a bike. How I find religion on Sunday morning,” wrote Flint on June 6.

“Set new personal records – Centennial, 3 Bears, some others, even a KOM (King of the Mountain) on south gate descent!” he added a few hours later.

But on Tuesday June 15, another cyclist, Pan Thomakas, bested Kim’s record by 4 seconds. That new time may have prompted Kim to try to go even faster, according to comments on bicycle chat rooms.

Kim Flint’s GPS recording of his 49.3 mph descent on South Park Drive in Tilden Park

Flint’s parents filed the lawsuit just a day before the statute of limitations would have run out, according to their attorney, Susan Y. Yang. They made the decision to do so after reading reports of another bicycle fatality involving Strava, she said.

On March 29, a cyclist named Chris Bucchere was riding down Castro Street in San Francisco at about 35 miles per hour when he hit 71-year old Sutchi Hui crossing Market Street. Hui died four days later. Bucchere later wrote about the accident on his Strava account. The San Francisco District Attorney has filed vehicular manslaughter charges against Bucchere.

Yang said Flint’s parents believe their son was partly responsible for his death, but that Strava’s culture was also a contributing factor. Trumpeting King of the Mountain challenges encourages risky behavior, often in areas crowded with pedestrians, she said.

“It makes no sense to reward someone “King of the Mountain” for a dangerous activity such as that, which puts the public in harm’s way,” said Yang.

The Flints are suing because they don’t want anyone else to die, she said.

Strava has denied culpability in Flint’s death, although it did remove King of the Mountain designations on South Park Drive in 2010 in response to Flint’s death, and noted that the descent was dangerous.

“The death of Kim Flint was a tragic accident, and we expressed our sincere condolences when it occurred in 2010,” Mark Riedy, a spokesman for Strava said in an email. “Based on the facts involved in the accident and the law, there is no merit to this lawsuit. We again express our condolences to the Flint family, but we will defend the company vigorously through the legal process ahead.”

Flint, who was born in Berkeley but who grew up Danville, got a joint engineering and computer science degree from UC Berkeley. He worked at NVIDIA, a visual computing company based in Santa Clara, and had assisted Sony in the development of the PlayStation. Flint lived in Oakland with his girlfriend.

He was an avid cyclist, going out on long rides almost every weekend. He frequently rode in Tilden Park, and had done a long loop in Niles Canyon in Fremont the week before his death. His friends said he was not a reckless person.

Read the Flint’s wrongful death lawsuit.

UPDATE 6/21/12:

After the lawsuit was filed, Stava sent out new terms of service to all its members via email. The most significant changes appear to be in its Disclaimer section, where Strava added information stating that all users agree that there are significant associated with cycling and that Stava is not responsible for what happens. 9hat tip: Paul Rauber0

“YOU EXPRESSLY AGREE THAT YOUR ATHLETIC ACTIVITIES, WHICH GENERATE THE CONTENT YOU POST OR SEEK TO POST ON THE SITE (INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO CYCLING) CARRY CERTAIN INHERENT AND SIGNIFICANT RISKS OF PROPERTY DAMAGE, BODILY INJURY OR DEATH AND THAT YOU VOLUNTARILY ASSUME ALL KNOWN AND UNKNOWN RISKS ASSOCIATED WITH THESE ACTIVITIES EVEN IF CAUSED IN WHOLE OR PART BY THE ACTION, INACTION OR NEGLIGENCE OF STRAVA OR BY THE ACTION, INACTION OR NEGLIGENCE OF OTHERS. YOU ALSO EXPRESSLY AGREE THAT STRAVA DOES NOT ASSUME RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE INSPECTION, SUPERVISION, PREPARATION,OR CONDUCT OF ANY RACE, CONTEST, GROUP RIDE OR EVENT THAT UTILIZES STRAVA’S SITE.
87
88 YOU EXPRESSLY AGREE TO RELEASE STRAVA, ITS SUBSIDIARIES, AFFILIATES, OFFICERS, AGENTS, REPRESENTATIVES, EMPLOYEES, PARTNERS AND LICENSORS (THE “RELEASED PARTIES”) FROM ANY AND ALL LIABILITY CONNECTED WITH YOUR ATHLETIC ACTIVITIES, AND PROMISE NOT TO SUE THE RELEASED PARTIES FOR ANY CLAIMS, ACTIONS, INJURIES, DAMAGES, OR LOSSES ASSOCIATED WITH YOUR ATHLETIC ACTIVITIES. YOU ALSO AGREE THAT IN NO EVENT SHALL THE RELEASED PARTIES BE LIABLE TO YOU OR ANY THIRD PARTY FOR ANY DIRECT, INDIRECT, PUNITIVE, INCIDENTAL, SPECIAL OR CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES ARISING OUT OF OR IN ANY WAY CONNECTED WITH (a) YOUR USE OR MISUSE OF THE SITE, (b) YOUR USE OR MISUSE OF EQUIPMENT OR PROGRAMS CREATED OR LICENSED BY STRAVA WHILE ENGAGED IN ATHLETIC ACTIVITIES, (c) YOUR DEALINGS WITH THIRD PARTY SERVICE PROVIDERS OR ADVERTISERS AVAILABLE THROUGH THE SITE, (d) ANY DELAY OR INABILITY TO
USE THE SITE EXPERIENCED BY YOU, (e) ANY INFORMATION, SOFTWARE, PRODUCTS, SERVICES OR CONTENT OBTAINED THROUGH THE SITE, WHETHER BASED ON CONTRACT, TORT, STRICT LIABILITY OR OTHERWISE, EVEN IF STRAVA HAS BEEN ADVISED OF THE POSSIBILITY OF DAMAGES. BECAUSE SOME STATES/JURISDICTIONS DO NOT ALLOW THE EXCLUSION OR LIMITATION OF LIABILITY FOR CONSEQUENTIAL OR INCIDENTAL DAMAGES, THE ABOVE LIMITATION MAY NOT APPLY TO YOU.
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Related:
Did attempt to set speed record cause cyclist’s death?
[06.20.10]
Did bicycle web site contribute to cyclist’s death? [07.05.10]

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  • legsquats

    I think we should seriously start looking at taking away freedom of choice in this country. Just declare martial law so something like this NEVER happens again! 

  • rikkidoxx

    Almost blew a bicyclist into his Nirvana when he ran a red light when I had the left turn green light.  He flipped me off.

  • Patsy Cline

    Getting very sick of lawyers…………..

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mason-Pringle/100001805866772 Mason Pringle

    I say they go after the guy that held a gun to their son’s head and made him login over and over to check for new speed records.  lol.  I don’t particularly care for most cyclists, but this suit is just ridiculous.  That is why they call it extreme sports.  If someone dies while doing it you are SOL.  It is a shame that EMTs have to waste their time with thrillseekers and not folks that have been accidentally hurt or are sick.

  • Educated_Opinion

    Looks like the new terms of service show that Strava acknowledges that they were significantly responsible for both deaths, or they would not have needed new terms of service.

    If Strava wanted to responsibly promote record setting, then they could have gotten insurance, arranged to close off the road, and then do time trials. As they didn’t, they clearly showed that they supported illegal behavior through illegal speeds and a lack of regulation or even an attempt to to assign responsibility.

    Not much difference between that and handing random people guns and asking them to compete over who can shoot random things more accurately. Both activities are illegal.

    I hope a message is sent to people that social networking sites can’t advocate illegal behaviour with out consequence.

  • Educated_Opinion

    It is a choice to break the law, there is no freedom lost here, only a need for responsibility. Your martial law comment is way overboard. Something needs to be done, because social networking sites should be held responsible if they encourage illegal activities. If a site advocates killing random people, it is just as legally responsible for conspiracy as a person.

    Why should it be different for a site that encourages people to break the law, and that encouragement results in people dying because of the illegal activities?

  • Educated_Opinion

    Q: Did Strava give rewards like “Titles” for activities that break the law?
    A:  Yes.

    Q: Did Strava make any postings telling people that illegal speeds/activities would be disqualified?
    A: No

    Q: As a result of the reward system and choosing to promote illegal activities did people die?
    Q: Yes

    Very clearly Strava’s actions (and inactions) led to people dying, and they failed in their duty of care.

    Case Closed.

  • Educated_Opinion

    Strava actively encouraged people to do illegal activities in an unregulated environment where people died.

    Seeing as you were not in the Olympics, and were not following the Olympic advice or reward system, your analogy doesn’t wash, especially as NBC was niether advocating illegal activities, nor unrelated events.

  • Educated_Opinion

    Strava provided the environment where it was encouraged and rewarded to break the law. Others may have been breaking the law, but they did not provide the forum that encouraged it.

  • Educated_Opinion

    Strava actively encouraged and rewarded illegal activity. That makes them as responsible as an adult walking up to a 10 year old and giving him a gun with the promise that he gets money if he hits someone. The error in judgment was encouraging people to break the law.

    All they are trying to do now is cover their butts, but regardless of thier TOS, if they continue to advocate and promote breaking speed records where those records break the law, the TOS is meaningless and they will get sued again. You can’t use a TOS to protect yourself from facing legal action if your activities actively promote illegal activity.

  • Educated_Opinion

    Halfway intelligent or not, if you give a gun to someone and they kill someone in your house with it, you are held partly responsible. The speed limit is 30MPH NOT 50MPH, Strava rewarded people for breaking the law when those people exceeded the speed limit on vehcles they could not control at those speeds.

    Strava should have had more sense to realize people will do stupid things, and they should have chosen to disqualify illegal speeds. They didn’t and that makes them responsible.

  • http://obbop.wordpress.com/ obbop

    Bicyclists vs. cars vs. pedestrians and all the other permutations of virus-like humans negative interactions.

    I do not support any side.

    I hope a HUGE asteroid moving 15,000 miles-per-second impacts Earth and obliterates the human species.

  • Educated_Opinion

    The issue here is Strava rewards its followers for illegal activities that can and has resulted in people being killed while doing the illegal activities. Extreme cycling or not, the speed limit there is 30MPH, not 50MPH, any speed past 30MPH is illegal and should not have been recorded to encourage others in breaking the law.

    People are scared because of what the precedent will mean to social networking, but somewhere in all of this, social networks need to be responsible for promoting illegal activities. A person would be held legally responsible, why would people who produce the content and benefit from these illegal activites not be?

    If a man gets paid for encouraging another man to randomly kill someone it is illegal.Even without pay it is illegal, it’s called conspiracy to commit.The content providers get paid for the illegal activity of the social network, so they are making money from people breaking the law. It is just as reasonable that they lose that money to a lawsuit if making that money costs lives.

    Don’t encourage illegal activities as owner/operator of a social networking site, and you don’t have to worry about getting sued for those activities.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Doobie-Brothers/100002826439134 Doobie Brothers

    He was speeding and it ended tragically. Can’t blame anyone else, he’s over 18 and made a choice.

  • Blender61

    Racing on an open road.
    Wrong side of road.

    He was a full grown man and he knew the risks.
    The responsibility is his alone.

     

  • Zombieunicorns

     Protected from what? This was a grown man who was capable of making and responsible for his own choices. Suing someone else over it is ridiculous.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_7A7RYH66QPM4YBXCQPH4E23BQ4 Richard

    Well, if folks want to post GPS data demonstrating how they beat some stupid local record by exceeding the speed limit by 20 MPH while racing down crowded city streets, I think that they should get a reward. To be more specific,that data should be used as evidence against them resulting in fines and jail time. Maybe that will put a crimp in the reckless behavior before some else gets killed.

  • Charles_Siegel

     Do you obey the posted speed limit?  Or do you ignore the speed limit law, like this cyclist?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Leonard-Schneider/100003390524853 Leonard Schneider

    I’ve been reading the “cars v. bicycles” whinging below.  As someone who spent years driving for a living in Berkeley, I have bad news:

    You’re both total dicks.  

    The two groups arguing is like watching a debate between Posse Comitatus and the Ku Klux Klan: both groups are worthless and horrible, so who cares what they have to say?

    CYCLISTS:  You’re loudmouthed, arrogant, and self-righteous.  You insist — due to your sense of moral superiority over everyone else — upon riding however you want, but lack the skills, athleticism, and sense of self-preservation that an SF bicycle messenger has to pull it off without injuring yourselves and/or pissing people off.  Hang up your dork-ass little helmets and take the bus.

    DRIVERS:  You’re unskilled, distracted, and self-absorbed to the point of solipsism.  Anything happening more than three feet past your hood is treated as irrelevant, since you’re too busy looking at your Garmin, cell phone, and IPad, eating yogurt, and applying makeup or trimming nose hair.  (These last two are the only use you find for your rear-view mirrors; the existence of side-view mirrors are still a complete mystery, aren’t they?)  Hang up the keys to your dork-ass little Priuses and BMWs and take the bus.

    Here’s your tune for the day.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zB5JOWv8xI4 
    Maybe I’m just in a mood.  Who knows?

  • Guest

    “A person would be held legally responsible…”

    That would be the individual who died. HE made the decision to do what he did. He was not a child. He was not impaired in any way. He was an adult, fully capable of making adult choices, and he made a bad one. It is HIS fault. Going after a website he used is just a money grab.

  • Guest

    Exactly one person is responsible for any given person’s decision to break the law: THAT PERSON. Nobody else. Not the books he read, not the movies he watched, not the TV shows he saw, not the video games he played, not the comic books he read, and not the websites he used. Just him. Nobody else. HE is responsible for his own decisions. Period. End of sentence.

  • Guesteron

     If only they would…

  • dave

    KOM going DOWNHILL? You’re doing it wrong.

  • Bruceplante

    “How I find religion on a Sunday morning.” Hilarious. Perhaps his parents can take up the challenge and try to beat that speed record, too.  Darwin is cleaning the pool.

  • grannycares

    Do not believe the family is doing their dearly departed any favors in this law suit.  The first question that comes to my mind is , “WHAT WAS HE (the deceased) THINKING??” 

  • http://www.facebook.com/sahovaman Nick Szczechowicz

    Yes, it is a websites fault that kim wanted to break a speed record on a hill obviously not designed for cyclists to be going over 50. The cyclists around m e are real jerks, they yell that they have the right to ride in the middle of the road yet they refuse to obey stop signs and traffic signals because “they are on a bicycle”. Hey, if you can keep up with the speed limit or close to it, then go ahead and ride in the road, but if you see a stop sign, you better stop.

  • Steve Moore

    If you choose to live your life “on the edge” then you have a good chance of falling off. The man chose to engage in a dangerous activity and suffered the consequences. The only one at fault is the deceased.

    The lawsuit is not entirely the parent’s fault. This country is filled to the brim with sleaze ball lawyers who prey on victims by convincing them they have a case. Then when the lose, they leave them high, dry, and a hell of a lot poorer. In the meantime, merit-less cases like this one clog our courts. 

    What we need is to force the waiving of legal feed paid to the plaintiffs lawyer if they lose the case. That would put an end to such shenanigans very quickly.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_ZWRERTQOKPUI6IK3ENJVVS5ZTE Kevin S

    ” Flint lived in Oakland with his girlfriend.”

    In HER MOM’S BASEMENT!

  • Charles_Siegel

     The bike boulevard plan has three phases: 1) signage 2) safer crossings at intersections 3) traffic calming.

    Unfortunately, the city only did (1) and has not gotten to (2) yet after 15 years or so, which is why we have the unsafe crossings that you complain about and that I have often complained about. 

    It doesn’t have anything to do with an “urban sacrifice streets policy” – whatever that is.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_N2GRQBUTVO3IJUKF3ZNVRLBQTI piecesparts

    Poor guy.  His parents just had to embarrass him one last time.  I’ll bet his mom used to spit on a Kleenex and clean his face at the bus stop in the morning, in full view of his classmates.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/AVQS65XSUKUH4Y3HNYB7HBCKZU Miker

    Man do you need a REAL Life….

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/AVQS65XSUKUH4Y3HNYB7HBCKZU Miker

    America has Pee’d in it’s own pool..Now we have too swim in  it..Things don’t go right in the World please SUE….Let’s all play the BLAME  Game…Sheesh>>>>

  • Educated_Opinion

    Apparently you don’t hold your opinion to be very credible or you would reply as more than a “Guest”

    If you had read the article, you would have realize I was talking about the more recent death, that of the pedestrian killed by an out of control cyclist who was trying to illegally break a speed record for the recognition the social networking site Strava offers.

    It was that death that prompted the lawsuit because the parents realize Strava was going to continue to encourage people to break the law if they did not.

    Rant all you like, but thankfully the law is not about opinion it is about fact. Strava encouraged illegal behaviour (and still does but is now hiding behind a TOS) that resulted in people NOT involved with Strava to be injured or killed.

    I bet your tune would change if a site encouraged people to drive motorcycles like that through intersections where your family walks across.

    If those cyclists want to do socially network on closed tracks and kill themselves, I guess that is their choice. But it is ridiculous to say that Strava is not responsible for promoting hazardous, illegal activities in public spaces

  • Educated_Opinion

    Rant all you like, but thankfully the law is not about opinion it is about fact. Strava encouraged illegal behaviour (and still does but is now hiding behind a TOS) that resulted in people NOT involved with Strava to be injured or killed.

    I bet your tune would change if a site encouraged people to drive motorcycles like that through intersections where your family walks across.

    If those cyclists want to do socially network on closed tracks and kill themselves, I guess that is their choice. But it is ridiculous to say that Strava is not responsible for promoting hazardous, illegal activities in public spaces

  • Batmaniak

    …at least his parents know how to use the internet. 40+ with an advanced education, pretty sure he understood the risks and wasn’t bullied into this.

  • guest

    Stop running red lights. Stop endangering pedestrians on sidewalks. Grow up.

  • http://www.salem-news.com/ Max Frisson

    Bicycles are a valid component of the modern urban transportation mix and deserve accommodation and equal access. But not at the expense of all other road users without sharing the burdens in place for other road users. They also must share responsibility. Bikes need to be equipped with a license plate for registration and identification purposes as ALL ROAD USERS are. Bicycles need to be inspected for safety equipment and have a minimum level of equipment established for street bikes as ALL ROAD USERS are inspected. [no brakeless fixed-gear bikes, lights, signals]. The bike operators need a permit obtained through a skills & knowledge test as ALL ROAD USERS are required to get for each vehicle type and they need to carry liability insurance to prove responsibility for damages they may inflict as ALL ROAD USERS are required to demonstrate. The reason that motorized vehicle operators obey laws is that because if they don’t comply their permission to use the public’s roads is revoked. This same coercive ability needs to be established for bicycles as well. Without a method of identification and a revocable operators permit no such controls can be established.

  • RickD

    Take some responsibility for your own (sons) actions – he was 40 yo and not mentally impared (other than doing something that is inherently dangerous)

  • Sam Aguilar

    Americans no longer take responsibility for their own irresponsible actions. They insist on blaming someone else for their own stupidity. Then, you have a cesspool of low life attorneys who feed off of these type of cases. This crap needs to stop!