Injured cyclist says court ruling should be warning to motorists

October 10, 2012 9:58:37 AM



A Clay County Circuit Court judge has ordered Robbie Norton to reimburse Metropolitan Casualty $220,080 for expenses incurred from a May 2011 collision that nearly resulted in a Starkville woman's death.  


Originally, Norton, a Cedar Bluff resident, was only fined $50 after being found guilty in Justice Court of simple assault with a deadly weapon for striking Jan Morgan while she was riding her bicycle down Highway 50 in Clay County.  


Morgan was present for the reading of the verdict. 


"(The judge) told me I shouldn't have been out there," Morgan said, not wanting to go into much detail. "She reprimanded me and fined her only $50." 


Morgan was left hospitalized for more than two months following the incident, and was put into a medically-induced coma for five weeks. The injuries she sustained are too long to list, she said. 


"My husband is a physician, and long after all this, I asked him at what point he knew I was going to live," Morgan said. "He told me not for the first two weeks." 


After a subsequent appeal by Norton and her attorney, Norton was again found guilty in the Clay County Circuit Court, and given an additional fine of $250 plus court costs and a six-month jail sentence that was suspended on condition that Norton be part of some sort of public service announcement, according to Morgan.  


Morgan said she was unsure if the PSA had been produced yet. 


On Friday, Norton was ordered to pay Morgan's insurance company, which covered a majority of the $500,000 in her medical bills. Morgan learned of the judgment against Norton from a friend, who saw a TV report on the story. 


Morgan did not even know the matter was in court.  


"I am starting to realize, that is just how insurance companies work," Morgan said. "To me, though, it's a good thing that this has come out. It brings to the forefront again. It brings to peoples' minds that you can't run over bicyclists, that you have to be aware. If you aren't, be aware there are some ramifications." 


Whether it is someone else's story or hers, Morgan is glad that the issue is in the public eye again.  


"Again, I am just glad that people keep being reminded,'' she said. "Some people just aren't aware of Mississippi law." 


Mississippi law currently requires motorist to maintain a a three-foot distance from cyclists. 


"I am really lucky I am doing this well," Morgan acknowledged. "My mission now is to keep people aware and make the whole cyclist- motorist situation better in the state."