Family of former KU athletics director Frederick files suit against city, gas utility

The widow of former Kansas University athletics director Bob Frederick filed a lawsuit against the city of Lawrence and Black Hills Energy Wednesday afternoon.

Frederick died in June 2009 as a result of a bicycling accident at Sixth Street and Kasold Drive after his bicycle struck a hole in the pavement.

According to the suit, filed in Douglas County District Court, the gas utility was doing work in the area in the weeks before the accident, and received a permit from the city for the work.

The suit alleges that both the city and the utility were negligent in failing to ensure that damage to the pavement was fully repaired.

Lynn R. Johnson is an attorney for the Kansas City firm Shamberg, Johnson and Bergman and is representing the family in the case.

“After a lot of thought and investigation, our family determined that this was an avoidable tragedy that could have been prevented,” Margey Frederick said in a written statement. “To prevent another family from having to experience what we’ve endured, and to improve safety for bicyclists and drivers in Lawrence, we want to make sure that the entities responsible for creating that hazard are held accountable.”

Johnson said that while it was his feeling that the utility was primarily responsible, the city was included in the suit to ensure that the Frederick family was able to recover damages from all groups that were responsible. If a jury were to determine that the utility and the city were both negligent and responsible for the hole in the pavement, jurors could determine a percentage of the blame for each defendant, Johnson said.

The Frederick family’s main concern is that they don’t want this to happen to someone else, Johnson said, and they want to ensure that responsibility and accountability are upheld.

Toni Wheeler, director of legal services for the city of Lawrence, said the city does not comment on pending litigation. A Black Hills spokesman said Wednesday afternoon that the company would not be able to comment until it was able to fully review the case.

Though the petition is asking for damages in excess of $75,000 in the case, that’s just to satisfy a statutory requirement, and an exact amount of the damages being sought hasn’t been calculated yet, Johnson said.

The family could potentially recoup losses from Frederick’s potential income he could have earned had he not died; the loss of his care, advice and counsel; damages from Frederick’s own pain and suffering from the time he was injured until the time he died; and non-economic damages such as grief and sorrow.