Washington cities can be held liable in a DUI crash

Part of my practice as a Seattle DUI Lawyer is to stay up to date on recent case law opinions decided by different Courts in our State. Last month the Washington State Supreme Court held cities, counties, and utility companies can be held liable when a faulty road design leads to injuries from car crashes – even injuries caused by a drunk driver. Yes you heard that right.

To put this simply if a drunk driver gets into an accident and injuries themselves or another, they can sue the city, county, or a utility company if they can prove a faulty road design was the proximate cause of the injury.

In the case that the Washington Supreme Court heard, the Court in a 8-1 ruling overturned a lower courts dismissal of the case. What had happened was two people who had been drinking were injured when their car ran off the road and struck a utility pole that was reportedly closer to the roadway than guidelines dictated.

The passenger, whose arm was disfigured, sued Skagit County and Puget Sound Energy. A lower court judge tossed the case, but the Supreme Court reinstated it, saying government entities owe a duty to ensure roads are reasonably safe for public travel, no matter whether the driver is at fault.

Personally I think this opinion will cause several issues in the future should another sue a City, or County for some roadway issue. Who will pay the judgements? If a City or County gets sued guess who is on the hook. The residents of that City or County. So if another driver involved in criminal activity is injured and the injury was caused by an issue that falls under this opinion, then the tax payers are on the hook.

This seems really unfair to me. Especially in this day and age of people suing. The United States has the reputation as a litigious society where people are only trying to take advantage of the legal system to get paid. Well this particular lawsuit seems to hit the nail right on the head. Suing Puget Sound Energy when a drunk driver hits their telephone pole. Huh, what will happen next?

Leyba Defense PLLC is a Criminal Defense Law Firm located in Bellevue and Seattle. Our practice represents those accused of DUI and other traffic related offenses.