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Appeals court upholds $5.4m judgement in fatal bike crash

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A Wisconsin appeals court upheld a $5.5 million judgment Wednesday against a driver who killed a 23-year-old bicyclist in Madison.

Brian Hodgson was driving on the city’s west side in June 2015 when he crashed into Emilly Zhu as she left a bike path and was crossing the street. Zhu’s estate sued Hodgson and his insurance company, IDS.

A jury awarded Zhu’s parents $10 million for the loss of her society and companionship, and awarded her estate $5 million for the pain and suffering she endured. A judge later reduced the award for loss of companionship to the statutory maximum of $350,000 and entered a judgment for $108,270 against IDS and $5.5 million against Hodgson.

Hodgson argued on appeal that the judge had improperly allowed testimony from a Stevens Point doctor who maintained that Zhu felt pain for at least 30 seconds before she passed out. Hodgson also contended that Zhu failed to stop at a stop sign where the trail met the street, causing the crash.

The 4th District Court of Appeals rejected his arguments.

The court found that judges have broad discretion in what expert testimony to admit and reasonably decided that the doctor could reliably opine that Zhu felt pain before she lost consciousness. The court went on to conclude that Hodgson failed to prove that Zhu had been negligent.

Hodgson’s attorney, Ward Richter, didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

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