PWRFL obtains $18.1 million judgment against the State of Washington Department of Transportation in highway design case.

On behalf of the plaintiffs, PWRFL attorneys Mike Wampold, Felix Luna and Ann Rosato, along with Jimmy Rogers of the Law Offices of James S. Rogers, obtained an $18.1 million verdict against the State of Washington Department of Transportation (WSDOT) and a driver who struck and injured PWRFL’s client.  

After a three-week trial, the jury found WSDOT liable for negligent highway design.  The co-defendant driver, who had admitted liability, was also apportioned fault by the jury. 

During trial, PWRFL presented evidence that WSDOT had known for decades that the area of Interstate 5 northbound between the University Street onramp and the Mercer Street exit is the most congested roadway in the State of Washington, which often leads to miles-long backups in multiple lanes of the freeway, and that drivers intending to take the Mercer Street exit often find themselves backed up into the left/”fast” lane of the freeway.  WSDOT has also known for decades that those backups into the left lane lead to freeway crashes as often as once every three days.

Despite this knowledge, WSDOT failed to install dynamic signs – using technology that has been available for decades and which is in use around the state – warning drivers on Interstate 5 northbound when conditions are such that cars taking the Mercer Street exit may suddenly and unexpectedly back up into the left lane of the freeway.  Such signs would prepare northbound drivers to reduce their speed and/or stop to avoid striking vehicles that are stopped on the freeway waiting to take the Mercer Street exit.

On September 20, 2016, PWRFL’s client, a 32-year-old attorney who was at the start of a promising legal career, was one of those drivers stopped in the left lane of the freeway waiting to take the Mercer Street exit on his way to work at a local defense firm.  The defendant driver received no warning that cars were stopped in the left lane as he took the left-side entrance at University Street and accelerated his Mercedes Sprinter van to freeway speeds.  He was suddenly confronted by a wall of cars stopped in the left lane of the freeway, the last of which was PWRFL’s client.  Because he had no time to stop, the defendant driver struck PWRFL’s client’s Honda Fit, setting off a chain reaction.  The Fit was destroyed in the collision. PWRFL’s client suffered a severe brain injury and other significant injuries that impact nearly every aspect of his life and severely impacts his relationship with wife, whose claim for her own losses was also presented by PWRFL.  Although PWRFL’s client was able to return to work as an attorney approximately 18 months after the collision because of his tremendous effort at rehabilitation, his career trajectory was diminished because of his brain injury.  To make up for his lost earnings and provide for his medical needs, the jury awarded $5,130,554 in economic damages.  To make up for the noneconomic harms that they both suffered, the jury awarded PWRFL’s attorney client $11,000,000 and his wife $2,000,000 in noneconomic damages.

A link to the jury’s verdict can be found here.