Family of Kathleen bicyclist killed in front of his home files wrongful death suit against van driver

bpurser@macon.comDecember 20, 2012 

WARNER ROBINS -- A wrongful death lawsuit has been filed in federal court in Macon by the family of a man killed in front of his Kathleen home while starting his morning bicycle ride Oct. 3, 2008.

Guangmao Nie, 68, died two days later from injuries he sustained in the accident at 307 Audrey Way in the White Columns subdivision.

The lawsuit was filed Dec. 13 by his widow Shan Fu and by Mingzhou Nie, the administrator of the victim’s estate, against Lisa Marie Reed, the driver of a 2006 Honda Odyssey van involved in the accident. Reed, who lived on the same street at 322 Audrey Way at the time of the incident, was driving her children to school.

“Reed’s failure to observe the roadway ahead and failure to yield the right of way was the proximate cause of Guangmao Nie’s injuries and subsequent death,” the lawsuit states.

Reed is accused of failing to keep a proper lookout, not exercising due care in operating a motor vehicle and violating the law by following too closely. The lawsuit also alleges that Reed failed to stop or keep the van from striking the bicycle.

The lawsuit contends that Guangmao Nie was in the process of mounting his bicycle when hit.

However, the Houston County Sheriff’s Office accident report states that Nie “was operating” his bicycle in his driveway, “failed to yield the right of way” and “pulled into (the van’s) path” on Audrey Way.

The report also states that Reed’s van “could not avoid the collision and struck the bicycle with its passenger front bumper.”

Nie was thrown onto the van and then fell off on the ground, the report stated.

Photos taken by law enforcement within minutes of the crash, the report stated, indicate the rising sun had a “severe effect on vision for eastbound traffic.” Reed was traveling east, the report stated.

But Russell M. Boston, a Macon attorney representing the Nies, contends that Reed stated in a court deposition that she did not see Nie and that she initially thought she’d hit a brick mailbox. The rising sun was, therefore, not a factor, he said.

“She just never saw him,” Boston said. “There’s just no excuse for that.”

In the video deposition provided to The Telegraph by Boston, Reed agreed that she never saw the cyclist, thought she’d hit a mailbox upon feeling the impact and did not realize her neighbor had been hit until she got out of the van. Also, Reed stated the sun was “not blinding to the point you can’t see.”

Boston also was critical of the investigation by sheriff’s investigators. He said law enforcement was attempting to guide Reed’s response and tried to give her “the right answers” when she was interviewed.

Douglas W. Smith, an Atlanta attorney representing Reed, could not be reached for comment Thursday. Reed, who now lives in Alabama, declined to comment.

The lawsuit originally was filed in State Court in Houston County.

Boston said the lawsuit was withdrawn and then filed in federal court. Boston said he thinks the Nies will have a better chance of being treated fairly in federal court than in State Court where the sheriff’s deputies are known to personnel in the court.

The federal lawsuit seeks a jury trial, reimbursement of $70,254.92 in medical expenses and $5,976.05 in funeral expenses. The lawsuits also asks for damages representing the full value of Nie’s life to be determined by jurors.

To contact writer Becky Purser, call 256-9559.

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