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Former SEC Chief Accountant Broke His Neck In 2016 Bike Crash, Awarded $41 Million In Damages By Jury

Back in July 2016 when I was working at AccountingWEB, I remember an SEC press release coming across my virtual desk announcing that Wesley Bricker had been named interim chief accountant. I remember thinking, “Wait, what happened to James Schnurr? He had just spoken at some accounting conference, somewhere, about something, it seemed.”

The July 21 press release said:

The Securities and Exchange Commission today announced that Wesley R. Bricker has been named the Commission’s Interim Chief Accountant responsible for the activities of the Office of the Chief Accountant as James V. Schnurr, current Chief Accountant, recovers from a serious bicycle accident.

“Wow, that sucks,” I mumbled to myself. “I wonder what happened?”

James Schnurr

Well, now we know.

According to two recently published reports out of Florida, Schnurr and his wife went on a bike ride near the couple’s home in Jonathan’s Landing in Jupiter, FL, one day in April 2016. Schnurr was riding behind his wife but didn’t see a pole, or stanchion, that was on the bike path and painted beige to blend in with the surroundings.

The Palm Beach Post reported:

Schnurr broke his neck when he crashed into a pole he couldn’t see and that was placed in the path without permits and in defiance of decades-old rules established by traffic engineers, said his attorney Gregg Schlesinger.

Paralyzed from the chest down, the former professional basketball player who became a wildly successful businessman can no longer feed himself, much less work, Schlesinger said.

According to a South Florida Sun Sentinel report, Schnurr sued the homeowners association overseeing Jonathan’s Landing and Jonathan’s Landing Golf Club Inc. in August 2016. He claimed the organizations erected two stanchions “which constitute physical obstructions to cyclists” on the bike trail but failed to provide pavement markings, signage, or other warnings of “their hazardous nature.”

Upon striking one of the stanchions, Schnurr “was ejected from his cycle and hit the ground, causing him significant and permanent injuries,” his complaint stated.

He was wearing a helmet at the time of the crash, according to reports.

Well just last week, a Palm Beach County jury awarded $41 million in damages to Schnurr, who officially retired from his job at the SEC in November 2016 due to his injuries. He took over as SEC chief accountant in October 2014.

However, the jury determined that Schnurr, the HOA, and the golf club were all responsible for the crash, the Sun Sentinel reported.

The association was 45 percent negligent because if failed to notify Schnurr of the dangerous conditions while the golf club’s 5 percent negligence contributed to Schnurr’s loss, injury or damage.

Schnurr was found to be 50 percent negligent. The jury awarded Schnurr $4,800,000 for past hospitalization, medical and nursing care; $12 million for future hospitalization, medical and nursing care; $750,000 in lost previous wages; $3.5 million for lost future wages; $10 million for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life; and $5 million to cover those more pain and suffering in the future. In addition, Schnurr’s wife Christine was awarded $5 million for loss of her husband’s “comfort, society and attention.”

The HOA is mulling whether to appeal the jury’s decision.

Schnurr, 67, who is now a quadriplegic, is currently living in a rehabilitation facility in Connecticut, and even though he just got PAID, the money will be quickly consumed by his medical needs, attorney Thomas Angelo, who also represents Schnurr, told the Palm Beach Post.

The crazy thing is, the poles were installed at one intersection of the bike path, where Schnurr’s crash occurred, to protect bicyclists because a car had been seen using the path as a shortcut, according to the Palm Beach Post.

We wish Jim well on his road to recovery.