Fellow bicyclist sues defendants in death of triathlete
Nov. 26, 1997

While on trial for his involvement in the April death of Chevy Chase triathlete Judith Marie Flannery, Ronald Milton Rinehart is far from the end of his legal problems.

Both Rineharts are named as defendants in a civil suit filed Oct. 15 in Montgomery County Circuit Court by Chevy Chase resident Cary Bland.

Bland was riding his bicycle from Bethesda to Poolesville along with Flannery and Joyce Gearhart when the Rinehart's Hyundai Excel struck and killed the world-famous triathlete and mother of five.

Bland's complaint charges both Rineharts with negligence, Ronald Rinehart with negligent entrustment of the vehicle, and Erie Insurance Exchange of Erie Pennsylvania with breach of contract for non-payment for Bland's uninsured motorist auto insurance coverage.

He is asking for $1 million from the Rineharts. In addition, Bland, who had uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage through Erie Insurance Exchange, is seeking $500,000 from the company for compensatory damages.

"[Ronald and Timothy Rinehart] were both operating the vehicle, therefore they both completed acts of negligence," said Bland's attorney, Peter Grenier of Ginsburg, Feldman and Bress in the District. "The father knew or should have known that he shouldn't have allowed his son to operate the vehicle."

Bland's complaint states that on April 2, the Rinehart vehicle, with Timothy Rinehart driving and his father intoxicated in the passenger seat, crossed the center line heading eastbound on River Road, causing Bland to swerve across the road to avoid hitting the vehicle head on. The car then struck Flannery, who was pronounced dead at the scene.

The complaint reads that Bland heard the thud of the Rinehart vehicle hitting Flannery's body and that he observed Flannery's "disfigured and twisted corpse lying in the middle of the road, approximately 100 feet from where she had been hit."

Bland is seeking $1 million compensation for sustaining "serious and permanent bodily and emotional injuries, physical pain and mental anguish, severe emotional distress, including post-traumatic stress disorder, and will in the future continue to suffer physical and emotional pain and suffering."

Bland, who is a sports massage therapist, damaged ligaments in two of his fingers in the accident, and has not fully recovered from the physical injury.

"There is no amount of money in the world that can make this go away in Mr. Bland's mind," Grenier said. "He's trying as best he can to put himself in the position as if this never happened."

In the Rinehart's answer to Bland's complaint filed by District attorney Thomas R. Mooers, both father and son deny liability for the allegations made in the complaint. Mooers declined to comment on the case.

At the time of the accident, Ronald Rinehart was insured through the Maryland Automobile Insurance Fund in the minimum required amount, which covers $20,000 per person or $40,000 aggregate. Since the Rinehart's insurance would not cover a full judgment, Maryland law requires Bland's insurance company to be added to the suit as a defendant because he had uninsured motorist coverage, Grenier said.

Erie has not yet filed a response to the case in Circuit Court and the company's attorney did not return telephone calls.