Rarely, if ever, does the State admit that it was negligent in a dangerous highway design lawsuit. But in the case of then 15-year-old Skylar Seward who now suffers from quadriplegia, the State has done exactly that.
As the Supreme Court noted in Guillen, to construe § 409 to cover all facts and documents that ultimately end up in such federally mandated reports would go far beyond the congressional intent, and would hide otherwise discoverable information essential to supporting claims that could have been proven had there been no safety enhancement project:
Plaintiffs in Guillen and Whitmer brought suit against Pierce County for unsafe county roads. Dick Benedetti of Davies Pearson and I represented the Whitmer sisters whose VW Beetle was struck and knocked into a utility pole at an unsignalized intersection.
Most practitioners have no idea of the difficulty accessing something as fundamental as accident reports for a given location in a highway accident case. This is true even when the accident history is essential to a proper and complete analysis.
Before its amendment in 2009, RCW 4.92.100 stated that “With respect to the content of such claims, this section shall be liberally construed so that substantial compliance will be deemed satisfactory.”
On days like today, I’m reminded of why the Pacific Northwest is a top tourist destination during the late spring and summer. Unlike 10 years ago, however, downtown Seattle remains lively through the evenings.
The law is clear in Washington State: Our street and highway departments have a “duty to provide reasonably safe roads and this duty includes the duty to safeguard against an inherently dangerous or misleading condition.”
My partners at SKWC and I care a lot about highway safety. Our biggest reason for caring is that we’ve seen a lot of horrible things happen to innocent people simply because a road or highway was designed in an ill-conceived manner.