Jury faults state in accident lawsuit

Peninsula News Network


A Clallam County Superior Court jury finds the State of Washington should take most of the blame for an accident that killed a Port Angeles woman and her three children.

The verdict in the multi-million dollar civil suit was handed down late Friday afternoon following four full days of deliberation.

The jury reached the conclusion after analyzing the wreck that happened in January of 2000 just west of the Elwha River on Highway 112.

26 year old Sara Smith had just passed the intersection with Dan Kelly Road when her car slid on the black ice right into the path of an on-coming logging truck. Smith’s 1993 Mercury caught fire, killing her and her three children.

At the time, State Patrol investigators said Smith’s car had gone out of control several hundred yards before it veered into the path of the on-coming truck. Troopers said there was nothing the driver could have done to avoid the car. Frost covered the shoulders of the road at the time of the wreck, but reports indicated the Department of Transportation had sanded the traveled portion of the road.

However, the jury decided that most, though not all of the blame, for the tragedy rests with DOT. The panel split the responsibility for the accident, placing 73% of the blame with the state and 27% with Smith. That percentage is then applied to the damages Smith’s husband had been seeking in the case. The final cash settlement should be about $1.2 million once the percentage is applied to the judgment. However, Smith’s attorneys tell PNN no amount of money can cover the loss of Smith’s family, that his main objective in filling the suit was to force the state to make changes to make that stretch of road safer.


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