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King County Pays $7 Million to Woman Hit by Metro Van

by Keith Ervin, The Seattle Times

King County has agreed to pay $7 million to settle a lawsuit filed by a woman severely injured when a Metro Transit supervisor’s van struck her while she was riding a Vespa scooter to work.

The woman’s attorney, Raymond Dearie, said he believes it is the largest amount the county has ever paid to a single plaintiff in a lawsuit.

Rochelle Ogershok, spokeswoman for the county Transportation Department, confirmed a settlement was reached before last Monday’s scheduled trial but said she didn’t know if it set a record.

“It was a tragic and unfortunate accident, and the county, of course, feels very badly that it occurred. … We feel the settlement was fair based on the circumstances surrounding the accident,” Ogershok said.

A portion of the settlement cost may be paid by Seattle under a separate indemnification agreement, but no information was immediately available about the terms of the agreement. Seattle was also named as a defendant after King County claimed the Capitol Hill intersection where the accident occurred was unsafe.

Ogershok said she was unaware of the side agreement, and former Seattle City Attorney Tom Carr said Wednesday night he didn’t remember the details.

Elizabeth Newman was “struck violently” by the Metro van as she rode her Vespa on the way to her job as an operating-room nurse at Swedish Medical Center the morning of Nov. 21, 2007, according to the complaint filed by Newman and her husband, Thomas.

The accident occurred at 12th Avenue East and East Thomas Street. The Metro van driver, Rickey P. Moore, traveling on Thomas Street, passed a stop sign and failed to yield the right of way to Newman, who was on 12th Avenue East, according to the complaint.

Dearie said Newman was thrown 40 feet by the impact of the collision, suffering severe internal injuries and compound leg fractures, and was in a coma for several days at Harborview Medical Center. She hasn’t recovered sufficiently to return to work, Dearie said.

Dearie called Newman “the most extraordinary person I’ve been privileged to represent” and said he recommended she not settle the case “for anything less than an extraordinary sum.”

Pierce County Superior Court Judge Brian Tollefson ruled in October that Newman, 33 at the time of the accident, was not liable for contributory negligence. Cases involving the county are sometimes heard in other counties.

Moore, now 57, was charged in Municipal Court with misdemeanor assault — injury by vehicle — but the case was dismissed.

Published in The Seattle Times, January 06, 2010

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