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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Driver Sues State of Oregon

livetrucking.com

Driver who plunged 50 feet off I-84 sues state for $7.25 million, charges bad freeway design

Article thanks to oregonlive.com and Aimee Green. Links provided:

June, 2015  An 18-wheel commercial truck driver who plummeted 50 feet off an Interstate 84 exit ramp -- and dangled upside down in his wrecked truck for an hour before he was rescued -- has filed a $7.25 million lawsuit against the Oregon Department of Transportation.
David Lee Sitton faults poor design of the Interstate 84 ramp that merges onto Interstate 5 northbound near Portland's Lloyd Center District. That design prompted a driver of a Nissan Versa to suddenly change lanes and collide into Sitton's Mack truck, according to the lawsuit filed in Multnomah County Circuit Court on Wednesday.
The crashed happened at 3:29 a.m. June 19, 2013. At the time, state transportation officials told The Oregonian/OregonLivethat the collision illustrated the risks of the heavily trafficked Y-junction, which they had wanted to redesign for years.
About 76,000 vehicles traverse the junction on an average day. In the five years before Sitton's crash, the state recorded 31 collisions at the junction.
Within months of Sitton's crash, the state Department of Transportation went ahead with plans to close the freeway on a series of weekends. Workers added new signs and repaved and redesigned the three lanes of I-84 that split onto I-5.
Where formerly the middle of the three lanes gave drivers the option of either merging onto I-5 North or South, the middle lane now only allows drivers to merge onto I-5 South.
That means that only the right lane now allows drivers to merge onto I-5 North.
Sitton's lawsuit states that before the redesign, he was lawfully driving in the middle lane as he merged onto the two-lane ramp heading north, toward I-5 North. The driver of the Nissan Versa was in the far-right lane of the two-lane ramp. When she realized that her lane was an "exit only" lane that was forcing her to take the Rose Quarter exit, she suddenly swerved into Sitton's lane, the suit states. She struck his truck, sending it into the curb and guardrail on the left side of the ramp, according to the suit.
Sitton's suit claims that the curb served no use but to launch his truck up toward the low guardrail, which failed to stop his truck. He and the truck tumbled down 50 feet to the ground. The Oregonian/OregonLive at the time reported that Sitton was hauling a 53-foot trailer that was empty, as part of his job hauling trash out of Portland to Arlington.
"Due to the severity of the accident and the destroyed condition of Plaintiff's truck, first responders believed that Plaintiff had been immediately killed by the force of the accident," reads Sitton's suit. "Plaintiff, however, was not killed by the accident. First-responders reported hearing Plaintiff screaming for help as he hung upside down in his mangled truck cab with one leg pinned and crushed."
The suit states that while Sitton waited for rescuers to use the "Jaws of Life" to free him, he supported his weight by holding his arms against the ceiling of the truck's cab to prevent "his pinned leg from separating from his body."
Sitton, who was 67 at the time of the crash, wasn't able to drive trucks for more than a year after the incident. The suit states that he has undergone many surgeries; his prognosis is uncertain; and he still suffers a decreased range of motion in his legs. That has significantly affected his enjoyment of life and ability to take part in activities, such as a planned cross-country trip and spending time with his grandchildren, according to the suit.
"Plaintiff's once vibrant life is now substantially more stationary," the suit states.
Dave Thompson, a Department of Transportation spokesman, declined comment on the suit, saying the department doesn't talk about pending litigation.
Although Wednesday's lawsuit only lists the Department of Transportation as a defendant, Sitton in 2014 sued the driver of the Nissan Sentra, Jordan Ashlee Sylvester. Sitton sought $7.5 million. The case was settled in April 2015 for an amount not disclosed in court records.
Sylvester was ticketed for making an "unlawful or unsignaled change of lanes," according to court records.
Portland attorneys Stephen English, Erick Haynie and Gabrielle Richards represent Sitton.
-- Aimee Green

http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2015/06/driver_who_plummeted_50_feet_o.html


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