The Greenwood-Leflore County Chamber of Commerce contends that a cyclist’s actions led to a collision that caused his death during the 2019 Bikes, Blues & Bayous ride.

The chamber has responded to a lawsuit filed against it and four other organizations by the family of cyclist Jim O’Daniel.

The lawsuit, which was filed on Oct. 12, asks for unspecified compensatory and punitive damages against the chamber as well as Southern Tire Mart, the city of Greenwood, the Mississippi Department of Public Safety and the Mississippi Highway Patrol.

O’Daniel’s family accuses the defendants of various acts of negligence that they say contributed either directly or indirectly to his death.

O’Daniel, 50, a civil engineer and avid cyclist from Clinton, was one of about 1,000 people participating in the 2019 ride, the largest of its kind in the state. There have been no other deaths among participants in Bikes, Blues and Bayous during its 13-year history.

He was biking on the ride’s 62-mile route when he approached the intersection of U.S. 82 and Mississippi 7 at Itta Bena. He proceeded into the intersection, where he was fatally struck by a Southern Tire pickup truck driven by Edward Hibbler, according to the lawsuit.

The 16-page complaint, which is one side of a legal argument, accused Hibbler of driving the vehicle in a reckless or negligent manner.

In the chamber’s response, which was originally filed on Dec. 15 and then amended on Dec. 23, the organization says it is “without sufficient information to know whether Mr. Hibbler was acting in the course of his employment at the time, and therefore denies that allegation.”

The response also states that “the sole proximate cause” of any damages comes from the negligent acts of O’Daniel, adding that the chamber “exercised the required care, caution and prudence” for the event without breaching any duty owed to the rider.

The chamber also says O’Daniel “assumed the risk of his actions” and the family’s legal complaint is barred by a release that he signed, thus waiving his right to seek legal action against the chamber.

Furthermore, while the chamber admits that O’Daniel died as a result of his collision with the truck, it claims O’Daniel struck the truck as opposed to the truck striking O’Daniel, as the complaint contends.

Adam Stone, the attorney from Jones Walker LLP out of Jackson who wrote the response, said he had no further comment beyond what was in the response.

So far, the chamber is the only organization to have filed a response to the complaint.

Southern Tire Mart asked for a 30-day extension at the end of November but had not yet filed a response with the court by mid-morning Wednesday.

• Contact Adam Bakst at 581-7233 or abakst@gwcommonwealth.com. On Twitter at @AdamBakst_GWCW.

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