An off-road motorcyclist who cracked his neck after plunging into an unmarked hole is seeking $275,000 in a lawsuit against Stanislaus County.
The county's lawyer said the rider ignored a warning barrier. Robert Gaestel, 50, of Merced was hospitalized and lost four months of work after landing on his head in the Jan. 17, 2009, accident at county-owned La Grange Off-Highway Vehicle Park.
"It's a nice place," said Rickey Wallace, Gaestel's Merced attorney. "I take my hat off to Stanislaus County for making that kind of area available to people so they don't go tear up the forest. He just got caught by surprise when he came around a bend and realized the road had been cut out from under him."
The lawsuit says "a large area" had been excavated but the path was not cordoned off and no signs warned of danger.
But County Counsel John Doering said crews had blocked the trail with temporary orange fencing typically used at construction sites that other off-roaders may have taken down.
"So the county took an effort to try to warn people and steer them away, but apparently Mr. Gaestel did not heed those warnings," Doering said. "Secondly, when people enter they are notified through signs that people ride at their own risk."
A court date has been set for April 19.