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Man sues Island Transit

"An Oak Harbor man who was paralyzed after hitting the back of a bus while riding his bike on Heller Road May 20, 1998, is asking for $10 million in damages from both Island Transit and Island County.John Balbin's claim for damages, submitted simultaneously to Island Transit and Island County April 24, states that the bus driver violated the rules of the road and drove in a negligent manner by passing Balbin on his bike, changing lanes and stopping suddenly in front of him. Balbin suffered permanent quadriplegia from the accident, according to his claim.The Island County commissioners recently denied the claim. Island Transit Director Martha Rose said that the matter is being handled by the Washington State Transportation Insurance Pool and their lawyers haven't made a determination yet.The traffic investigation on the accident was done by Island County Sheriff's Deputy Rick Norrie. The report states that Balbin was biking northbound on Heller and was keeping his head down to maintain a high speed up the hill. The bus pulled off at a bus stop near the Wagon Wheel Mobile Home Park and Balbin collided into the back of it. The report does not state that the bus driver or Balbin did anything improper, and no citations were issued in connection with the accident.The claim for damages, however, says that the bus driver caused the accident by cutting off the lawful lane of travel that Balbin was using. Balbin is asking for over $200,000 in medical expenses, over $4 million is future economic losses, plus general damages.Although Rose said she can't comment on pending litigation, she did say that the accident has greatly affected all the Island Transit employees. I can't express how horribly we feel for Mr. Balbin and his wife, she said."

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