Bicycle accidents happen all the time. A car driver fails to yield right of way. A road adjoining a construction site hasn't been cleared of gravel and other debris and a rider goes into a skid. An unexpected pot hole engulfs the front tire, causing a wreck. Seasoned riders know there's always a risk involved.
But most people don't expect a bike accident when they go into a sporting goods store. Which is unfortunately what Katy resident Ghulam Khilji says happened on March 6 when he went to the Academy Sports + Outdoors store on Belfort in Richmond, wanting to look at their bikes. Perhaps he should have strapped on a helmet first.
It was a normal enough after-work outing. But moments after meeting his wife and their young niece at the store at about 6:30 p.m., the 52-year-old Khilji was knocked unconscious and woke up to find himself collapsed on the floor, his head, neck and back throbbing with pain after he says a bicycle fell on his head from the uppermost rack.
As a result, he says, he missed weeks of work in his job as a supply chain manager, couldn't drive himself and ultimately ended up filing a civil lawsuit against Academy asking them to preserve any video recordings and other evidence of the event while he seeks damages. His attorney Bilaal Badat of the Bilaal Badat law office along with Muhammad S. Aziz of Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Agosto, Aziz & Stogner have filed the case in state district court alleging negligence.
The suit maintains — among a multitude of points — that Academy failed to secure the bicycles in the display rack, had no warning signs in the area, didn't properly train or supervise its employees on how to mount the bikes in the racks or get them down safely.
The Houston Press left a message for Delilah Banks, attorney for Academy at its Katy headquarters but did not hear back. We took a trip to the store which showed while there were bicycles on display, none were occupying the top rack closest to the ceiling, which is where Khilji says the bike fell from. As of April 28, no response had been filed in the case with the Harris County District Clerk's office.
Khilji says after arriving at the store, he split away from his wife and their niece to look at the bikes by himself while they shopped in another section. He asked a store employee to get down a bike from the top rack so that he could look at it more closely. Describing what happened next, he said:
"A middle-aged lady worker in the store she came to work the bicycle down from the third level stand and she tried to get it down and the stand slipped from her hand or the stand was not working or something else happened with the system and the bicycle fell on my head. The solid part hit me very hard and I was impacted so much with that. I was falling on the floor. For like two minutes everything was dark."
According to Badat, by Texas law a business is responsible for removing any dangers from a facility. "They have to make sure the premise is safe for shopping purposes. They have to make sure that the floors are well kept., the parking lots are well kept just to make sure that a person who's coming there to spend money they have to make sure that those people are there safe at all times."
When he regained consciousness, Khilji said he remained seated on the floor and after about ten minutes his wife came by, wondering what had happened to him. The employee called the manager over who asked Khilji if he could walk, Khilji said. With his wife's help he made it out of the store, although he said he had to stop and rest a couple times, sitting on the floor. As they left the store, store personnel asked if he needed an ambulance, but his wife declined and instead took him to an emergency care clinic.
A check of Harris County records shows Khilji has another unrelated civil suit ongoing in Harris County involving a 2018 car accident in which he was injured in which he is seeking between $100,000 and $200,000 in damages. Asked about this, Badat said no Khilji is not someone who goes around filing lawsuits, he's just been unlucky lately.
Badat's firm has asked that Academy save all evidence of the encounter, including any videotapes of what happened in the bike rack area. The suit asks for at least $1 million in damages to cover Khilji's medical expenses, lost wages, and his pain and suffering both physical and mental. Khilji said he still has headaches more than a month after the event.
The one thing Khilji says he is thankful about in the whole episode: That his 5-year-old niece wasn't standing right beside him when the accident happened. He's afraid if the bike had fallen on her, the outcome might have been fatal.
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.