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Bike courier 'pummelled' by road rager awarded $22,500

Vancouver Sun, August 31, 2004
By Krisendra Bisetty

Bicycle courier Andrei Stadnyk had just ended his second week on the job and was heading home on one of the "ugliest" days of the year, with the cold biting and the rain pelting down.

It got worse. A vicious road-rage encounter with an angry BMW driver left him with a steel plate in his fractured jaw and permanently altered the course of his life.

He had never been in a fight before the Nov. 30, 2000 incident, and even as the punches rained down on his face during the roadside fracas, the then skinny 160-pound 18-year-old Stadnyk did not hit back at driver Richard Allan, a short and stocky man he said was much older than him.

But Stadnyk battled through the courts, launching a civil lawsuit against Allan. A B.C. Supreme Court judge recently awarded Stadnyk $22,500 in damages as a result of the assault.

Stadnyk's bicycle was thrown to the ground, he was wrestled from the road to the sidewalk and he was "pummelled into submission" while bystanders watched, Justice Ronald Holmes said in a written judgment handed down Aug. 26. The beating was far beyond any action required to end the "scuffle" that occurred between the parties, he added.

The incident occurred during peak traffic at the intersection of Fir and Broadway in Vancouver. Allan, travelling on Fir Street, had stopped his vehicle in the curb lane at Broadway at a red traffic signal when Stadnyk passed by on his courier bicycle and pulled up in front of the BMW.

Allan, who was talking on his cellphone at the time, resented the manoeuvre, lowered his window and said "move it, asshole," Holmes said.

An independent witness testified she later saw Allan beating Stadnyk in a restaurant parking lot near the intersection.

The witness, identified in court documents only as Ms. Anderson, was in her car in the next lane. She testified during the July 14-15 court hearing that she saw Allan punch Stadnyk 10 to 20 times in the face, which he was trying to cover with his hands. The beating continued after he fell to the ground and Anderson left her car and yelled at the defendant.

"He approached her, said words to the effect that the plaintiff had nearly hit his car, and gestured toward her as if also inviting her to fight him," Holmes said in the judgment.

Anderson testified that Allan "had a crazed, out-of-control look on his face. His eyes were black and his look frightening."

Her description was that it was a scary, vicious attack and Anderson was very upset and shaken by what she had seen, the judge said.

Allan's version was that following the initial exchange of insults, Stadnyk spat on the hood of his car, so he got out to persuade him to get off the road because the bicyclist didn't pay insurance.

After he got back into his car, he said Stadnyk placed his bicycle crosswise to his car, so he got out again and tried to move it, but it fell.

Allan, the judge recounted, claimed he found himself in a pushing, pulling contest with Stadnyk, who was trying to pull his [Allan's] sweater over his head, a tactic used by fighting hockey players to blind and confine an opponent.

His recollection, however, that he hit Stadnyk just once to the head was rejected as "absurd" by the judge.

Stadnyk, who was bleeding from the nose and mouth after the assault, suffered a fractured left cheek bone and underwent four hours of surgery to have it reconstructed. A steel plate now holds the fractured bone together.

The judge noted that Stadnyk also had a terrible bruised, swollen and discoloured left eye, could not open his mouth for a week after surgery and ate only ice cream. He was unsteady and dizzy for two weeks, and had a problem with blood clots in his nose and mouth for more than three months.

Stadnyk had asked for a damage award in a range of $30,000 to $50,000 but was awarded $22,500 for general damages, including aggravated damages of $2,500. Aggravated damages are usually awarded for an assault that occurs in humiliating or undignified circumstances.

For loss of earnings, he received $1,050.

The judgment said Stadnyk testified that Allan, who was revving his car engine, yelled at him to get out of the way or he would run over him.

Stadnyk said it was only after Allan had thrown his bicycle to the ground that he spat on his car, which he admitted was "a bad reaction" from him.

They then engaged in a tug-of-war and moved over the sidewalk to the edge of the restaurant parking lot. Stadnyk said he was trying to hold Allan's arms and yelling for someone to call the police.

However, Allan got an arm free and began pounding him in the face and head. Stadnyk ended up on the ground bleeding, unsure if he was unconscious or not. He was taken from the parking lot to the Vancouver General Hospital emergency unit by ambulance.

Allan was charged with assault in a December 2001, provincial court case which Stadnyk did not attend. Allan, who did testify, was acquitted. The judge found that, initially, at least, there was a consensual fight between the two men and that Allan may have acted in self-defence.

"He did not want to re-live the incident which was too fresh in his mind, so he chose not to go," Stadnyk's attorney, Jas Basra, of Richards Buell Sutton Lawyers said Monday.

"My client has been through a lot in almost four years. His livelihood depended on him being on the streets and this incident affected every aspect of his life. It definitively took a toll on his educational, occupational and personal aspirations in life," Basra said, adding that Stadnyk was lucky to be alive.

Disputes arising from traffic issues are becoming too common in Vancouver and the Lower Mainland and there is a prevalence of road rage that needs the attention of the authorities, she said.

Stadnyk, now 22, told The Vancouver Sun in a Monday interview that he has only just begun to get his life back in order. He quit his job as a courier two weeks ago and has begun a course in carpentry at the B.C. Institute of Technology. He is also the single father of a six-month-old daughter.

He said he did not remember much of the incident on "one of the ugliest days of the year with the rain and cold," except that when he was being punched, it felt like he was being hit on the head with an anvil.

"I was 18 years old and starting to find my direction. I was pretty optimistic as a kid but this kinda just changed everything for me," he said softly.

While he is proud he stood up for himself in the incident, he said he would not do so again.

"No matter what the cost to my feelings of dignity, I would stay away [from confrontations]."


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