British Columbia

DHL ordered to pay B.C. couple almost $10M US after they were hit by truck on Oregon highway while cycling

A jury has awarded more than $9 million in damages to a man and woman from Vancouver who were struck by an 18-wheeler truck while riding their bikes along Interstate 84 in the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon.

Shipping company was found liable for collision between truck and two cyclists

Eric Moutal and Andrea Newman on Aug. 2, 2016, the day before they were struck by an 18-wheeler truck while on a cycling trip along the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon. (Submitted by Eric Moutal)

A jury has awarded more than $9 million US in damages to a man and woman from Vancouver who were struck by an 18-wheeler truck while riding their bikes along Interstate 84 in the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon.

Late Friday, the eight-member jury found Exel Inc. — more commonly known as the shipping company DHL — liable for the Aug. 3, 2016, collision after a five-day trial in U.S. District Court in Portland.

It awarded $1.3 million in economic damages, $4 million in non-economic damages and $4 million in punitive damages to Eric Moutal, whose lower left leg was nearly amputated, and $400,000 in non-economic damages to his now wife, Andrea Newman, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported.

"Not at all what we could have ever imagined," Moutal told CBC News, noting that the couple had saved receipts from pay parking at the hospital in the hopes of getting that reimbursed.  

Moutal said doctors considered amputating his leg, but they opted for a total of six surgeries instead. He used to commute daily by bike to work, but can now only go for short rides.

Moutal, who was 31 at the time, and Newman, then 25, were vacationing in Oregon, camping and biking in the Columbia River Gorge before a planned visit to Portland.

File photo showing the Columbia River Gorge near Cascade Locks, Ore. The couple was camping and biking in the area before a planned visit to Portland when the accident happened. (Mark Graves/The Oregonian via The Associated Press)

The two had been biking along the Historic Columbia River Highway but rode a stretch along the interstate in order to return to their campground.

Under Oregon law, it's legal to bike on the shoulder of most freeways, except for a handful of urban freeways where the Oregon Department of Transportation has expressly prohibited it in Portland and Medford.

Exel's lawyer Robert Barton said Moutal and Newman had crossed the white line separating the shoulder from the travel lane and the trucker wasn't able to avoid them. The attorney also told the jury that the road shoulder at that location is extremely narrow.

"It happened because they were where they shouldn't have been," he told the jury.

Moutal said he's in shock and isn't planning to spend the money just yet, in case there is an appeal. 

"If it does go through then yeah, it's wild," he said. 

With files from Micki Cowan

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