The purpose of a road shoulder is to provide a safe place for drivers to pull off. This is what Todd Moothart, a 50 year old software engineer, thought as he tried to pull his motorcycle out of traffic. A conscientious motorcyclist, he wanted to wait for his friends to catch up. Motorcyclists know that it’s safer to travel in groups on the highway to increase their visibility to other vehicles.
When Todd got separated from his two friends on a beautiful Saturday afternoon in Fall 2013, he decided to pull off on SR 14 and wait for them. But the road shoulder was far from safe. The broken pavement past the edge of the main road–next to the shoulder–dropped off seven inches.
When Todd pulled his Harley Davidson onto the shoulder, his motorcycle wheel hit the face of the seven-inch broken pavement edge. His motorcycle hit the face of the broken pavement, his front and rear wheels were severely dented, and his body was propelled into the air like he was on a trampoline.
Note that safety standards in the transportation engineering field recommend that pavement edge drop offs be kept to a depth of no greater than two
Todd suffered severe injuries, including a kidney laceration, a concussion, amputation of a part of his right index finger, and broken/fractured bones in his upper and lower body.
The design plans for the on-ramp called for an eight-foot paved shoulder on the right-hand side. At the location where Moothart pulled off, there was no paved shoulder at all beyond the fog line. For unknown reasons, the State’s as-built plans for the on-ramp showed an eight-foot paved shoulder, but the evidence indicated that the on-ramp never had an eight-foot paved shoulder in the area where Moothart pulled off. The on-ramp was built in the mid-90s.
Stritmatter Kessler attorneys represented Todd Moothart in trial against the State of Washington in late October/early November of this year. The jury found that the State had failed to maintain the road in a reasonably safe condition.Todd was awarded $2,993,000. Part of the award was for about $500,000 in undisputed past medical bills and wage loss.
Todd was a conscientious motorcyclist who was at the wrong place at the wrong time. Emergencies and split second decisions happen anywhere and anytime. That’s why the shoulder must be maintained per State of Washington standards. The shoulder needs to be safe to pull over for all vehicles. This is the State of Washington has standards for an eight food shoulder with a minimum drop off of 2 inches.
Kudos to our firm’s roadway safety attorneys for educating the jury and judge about the need to keep the State’s road shoulders safe! The government needs to be held accountable, when its roads don’t meet basic safety requirements.
Decide for yourself who has the more cogent arguments, when watching the Washington State Supreme Court oral arguments for Wuthrich v. King County. We’re proud of Ray Kahler, Seattle/Hoquiam trial lawyer for demonstrating his mastery of the relevant case law in arguing for Wuthrich.
My parents are in their early 70’s. They hike up mountains, golf daily, walk for hours, garden, and travel constantly. Sometimes, I get tired just hearing what they’re up to. But I’m pleased that they’re healthy and so physically capable. But it is more difficult to age in a healthful manner for some over 65 years old–particularly those who have sustained catastrophic injuries.
A local NPR reporter for KUOW, Ruby De Luna, examines the aging population with disabilities in “Aging With Grace For Boomers With Disabilities.” Ms. De Luna’s story centers on Lan Remme, a recent bicycle injury client that Stritmatter Kessler Whelan attorneys represented. Keith Kessler, one of the SKW lawyers on Remme’s team comments, “Lan is one of those who has handled such adversity with grace and wisdom.”
His grace and wisdom will help and so will his optimism. Ms. De Luna reveals how people with physical disabilities, such as 67 year old Lan, face greater obstacles in aging gracefully.
A University of Washington study takes a closer look at this segment of our population with the goal of assisting them to lead healthy lifestyles. After SKW bike injury client Lan Remme hit his bicycle wheel against a defective sidewalk on the Montlake Bridge, he lost use of his legs and must now use a wheelchair to get around.
In Ms. De Luna’s interview, Lan explains that he would love to maintain his independence, despite his physical limitations. He tells Ruby,“Anytime that I can head out someplace or do something on my own without relying on someone, it’s a huge boost of independence. But, he explains, “The thing about being in a wheelchair is that it makes you a person 50 times more dependent on others than you would be normally.”
Remme is not going to let his disability get in the way of aging gracefully. He was physically active (cycled in many events in the years and months before his tragic accident) before he was wheelchair bound. Now, he will just work that much harder to stay physically fit. Laura Remme, Lan’s wife, is a model partner in helping him navigate the rough waters. He’s starting yoga and who knows what else he will tackle in the coming years. We salute Lan Remme for his fortitude and determination.
Listen to Ruby De Luna’s story and interview of Lan Remme.