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Appeals Court Overturns Award to Victim Who Said Sex Identity Changed

February 24, 1988

LANSING, Mich. (AP) _ An appeals court has struck down a $1 million judgment won by a man who claimed that his sexual identity changed when his bicycle was struck by a soft-drink delivery truck.

In a decision released Tuesday, the three-judge panel of the Michigan Court of Appeals agreed unanimously that errors made in jury instructions by Wayne County Circuit Judge Louis Simmons required reversal of the award.

The appeals court ruling came in a case involving Joseph Pickens, who was injured Sept. 18, 1978, in Inkster when his bike collided with a Pepsi-Cola truck.

Pickens, 16 at the time of the accident, charged negligence and said that after the accident ″he was a transsexual - inclined to identify with the opposite sex,″ the court said.

″His theory ... was that prior to the accident he was predisposed to transsexualism and that the accident ‘triggered’ the condition,‴ the appeals court said.

The jury found Pepsi-Cola negligent and awarded Pickens $1.07 million in damages.

But Pepsi contested some jury instructions, including one saying Pickens had a right to cross the street at the intersection. The company said he had that right only if the light was in his favor and he could do so safely.

The appeals court agreed, saying that there was a dispute over who had the green light and that Simmons’ instruction implied that Pickens had the green light.

Terrence Haggerty, attorney for Pepsi-Cola, said the company ″feels the court decided the matter correctly.″

Sanford Roth, attorney for Pickens, said he was ″quite disappointed″ but added he had not seen a copy of the ruling. He said he did not know if he would appeal to the state Supreme Court.

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