TOPEKA — A Colorado lawyer who litigated a civil settlement for the widower of a Washburn University art professor, who was killed in 2015 when her bicycle was struck by a pickup as she rode on a Crawford County road, had a series of ties to the professor.
Besides litigating the civil settlement, Megan Hottman, who has a cycling law practice based in Golden, Colo., also knew Glenda Taylor, the cyclist who was head of the WU art department and a well-known faculty member when she was killed in the wreck June 7, 2015. Taylor, 60, a competitive bicyclist, was warming up to ride in the Kansas State Time Trials when she was struck.
Earlier this week, Todd M. Kidwell, the 38-year-old pickup driver from Chanute, pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter, a felony, in Taylor’s death. As part of the plea, Kidwell also pleaded guilty to unlawful passing of a bicyclist within 3 feet, a traffic infraction. A second infraction of reckless driving was dismissed.
Hottman and Taylor had other links.
Hottman said Taylor mentored her during her earlier bike racing days. Hottman met Taylor after she graduated from law school, when she worked as a judicial clerk in the Jackson County, Mo., Circuit Court. Hottman lived in nearby Mission.
Taylor “was one of those women who was always smiling, who was always positive,” Hottman said.
Taylor mentored many women who raced.
“She personally was responsible for bringing so many women into the sport,” Hottman said.
Hottman had another connection to the crash that claimed Taylor’s life.
After Taylor was struck and thrown 169 feet, Hottman’s father, Donavon Hottman, and a second rider came upon the crash site. They administered aid to Taylor, who was fatally injured. Donavon Hottman knew Taylor and her husband.
“I got a pretty distraught call from my parents,” Hottman said. Her father “really wanted to talk through it. I assured him he had done an amazing job at the (wreck) scene.”
Yet another link brought Hottman close to the case.
About a week before the wreck, another cyclist who was a lawyer mentioned Hottman in passing as a lawyer whose cycling law practice was developing. In turn, Taylor said something to her husband, Joe Saia. After Taylor’s death, he recalled Hottman and contacted her.
Hottman had moved to Golden to work as a judicial clerk in the Jefferson County, Colo., District Court, then worked for a private law firm.
She was trying to find a way to combine her life as a lawyer with her passion for cycling. Cyclists who knew Hottman was a lawyer sometimes would ask her questions about the law, telling her someone they knew had been injured in a wreck. The law firm she worked for gave her the go-ahead to handle a cycling case or two.
She had found her niche.
“I really enjoyed the work,” Hottman said.
In March 2010, she opened Hottman Law Office in Golden. Her practice’s website is TheCyclist-Lawyer.com.
Hottman’s solo law practice specializes 100 percent in cycling law. She reviews bicycle-related contracts, but the bulk of her practice deals with personal injury cases for bicyclists injured in wrecks. Hottman also co-authored “Bicycle Accidents, Crashes and Collisions: Biomechanical, Engineering and Legal Aspects,” a 384-page book focusing on legal issues surrounding bicycle accidents, crashes and collisions.
“I do (cases) all over the country. I feel really blessed,” she said.
Bicyclists have been killed in a few of the crashes Hottman has handled in more than six years. Her 15 to 20 cycling cases typically start and finish within a year, though a few require more than a year.
The fatalities are “really, really difficult cases,” Hottman said.
“It’s a sad reality I can even make a living representing bicyclists involved in vehicle-bike wrecks,” she said.
Some motorists don’t understand that by law, cyclists have the same rights as motorists to use roads, Hottman said.
More bicyclists are riding now as people pedal bikes to exercise and to save money rather than buying gas, she said.
Hottman declined to say how much her client received in the civil settlement with Kidwell, the motorist involved in Taylor’s death.
Kidwell will be sentenced Jan. 9. The pleas were made before Crawford County District Judge Lori Bolton Fleming in Girard, 145 miles southeast of Topeka.
The crash occurred on K-146 highway, a two-lane road, near the small town of Walnut.
The plea agreement was made with the consent of Taylor’s family, Crawford County Attorney Mike Gayoso said this past week. Before the pleas, Kidwell was charged with reckless second-degree murder.
Depending on whether Kidwell has a criminal history, the manslaughter conviction could carry a prison sentence ranging from two years and seven months to 11 years and four months.