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Paralyzed Bicyclist Sues City, Saying Lakefront Trail Dropped Nine Feet

By Ted Cox | December 30, 2014 12:13pm
 Jennifer Kraft was left paralyzed from the chest down.
Jennifer Kraft was left paralyzed from the chest down.
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Jennifer Kraft

THE LOOP — A 34-year-old schoolteacher is suing the city over a bike accident last year on the South Side's Lakefront Trail that left her paralyzed from the chest down.

Attorneys for Jennifer Kraft said in a suit filed Tuesday in Cook County Circuit Court that the city and the Chicago Park District were liable for her falling 9 feet when the trail "abruptly ended without warning" at 37th Street.

According to the lawsuit, the accident took place April 25 at about 8 p.m. Kraft, who said it was dusk at the time, had entered the trail at 52nd Street and was northbound on the bike trail when it "abruptly ended," and she fell 9 feet onto concrete. The suit charges that the trail followed a "zig-zag" course "with a curvature in the path that does not allow a user ... to decipher whether the trail comes to an abrupt end or continues on." It also suggests the "raised lip" at the edge of the trail "launched or projected" her bike when she drove off it, contributing to her injuries.

"It looked like the trail was continuous, and I was just biking along, and I had no idea until I fell," Kraft said Tuesday.

Kraft's attorney Patrick Salvi said those conditions persist at the site with no warning sign. "This really is an issue of community safety, and Jennifer's motivation is really making sure this doesn't happen to anyone else," Salvi added.

"While Jennifer’s helmet saved her life, she remains in a wheelchair, as she fractured three neck vertebrae, both shoulder blades, and punctured her spine at chest level," according to a statement issued Tuesday by the Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard law firm representing her.

Kraft was paralyzed from the chest down, according to the firm, and the lawsuit charges the city and the Park District "carelessly and negligently designed the trail by failing to warn bicyclists of an abrupt drop-off on the trail." It also names A&L, Inc., a foreign firm that designed and constructed the trail, as a defendant.

"Jennifer's life has been forever changed because of this unsafe trail," said Salvi, managing equity partner at Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard. "Not only does the trail design concern us, but the trail has no warning signs, railings, lights or other safety protections — not then, not now."

The lawsuit seeks damages in excess of $50,000 to treat Kraft's injuries and continuing treatment.

Kraft, a Loop resident, said she teaches chemistry at UNO's Hector Garcia High School, 4248 W. 47th St. in Archer Heights. She added that she intends to return to work in February.

The city Law Department and the Park District did not respond to requests for comment.

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