MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – A former West Virginia University student who was hit by a vehicle while in a crosswalk along Monongahela Boulevard in Morgantown is suing the engineering firms involved in a project along that road prior to the incident.
Sara Queen, via her mother, Loretta Blake, has filed the lawsuit in Monongalia County against The Thrasher Group, based in Bridgeport; A. Morton Thomas & Associates, Inc., based in Charleston; Dennis Corporation, based in Columbia, South Carolina; and Quality Counts, LLC, based in Tigard, Oregon. Queen is now considered a mentally incompetent adult, according to the suit.
The lawsuit states that in February and March 2008, the West Virginia Division of Highways hosted workshops, in which the DOH and West Virginia University discussed installing a pedestrian bridge across Monongahela Boulevard to provide a safer option for students and residents needing to cross the road. In 2008, WVU received a $300,000 grant from the Federal Highway Administration’s Transportation Enhancement Program for the project, with the university contributing an additional $75,000 toward it, according to the lawsuit.
In August 2009, the DOH authorized the project, but in November 2009, after entering into an agreement with the DOH, WVU put the pedestrian bridge project on hold, the lawsuit states. It further claims that WVU contracted with Thrasher at around this same time period to study, design, manage, oversee and subcontract certain aspects of the bridge project. This involved the other defendants being subcontracted to perform assessments of traffic patterns, traffic impact and traffic counts. These assessments were issued between May 2014 and June 2016, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit claims that Thrasher recommended cancellation of the pedestrian bridge project in favor of a crosswalk between Monongahela Boulevard and Evansdale Drive, in spite of an inadequate analysis and the determination at the workshop that “crosswalks were not indicated as a viable alternative to eliminating the high risk of pedestrian and motor vehicle conflicts in the area.”
Further, it states that the scope of the project changed from a pedestrian bridge to a new crosswalk when the DOH and WVU entered into an agreement in December 2011.
In May 2016, the bidding process was opened up and awarded, with the crosswalk completed in December 2016. The final inspection of the project was completed in July 2017, the lawsuit states.
The incident involving Queen happened in February 2018, when she was hit while in the crosswalk. According to the lawsuit, the northbound and southbound traffic lights on Monongahela Boulevard turned red, and the pedestrian crossing signal activated. At that time, Queen entered the intersection, and a pickup truck going 45 mph ran the red light. The passenger side mirror hit Queen in the head, causing skull and brain injuries, according to the lawsuit.
Last February, a man was sentenced in Monongalia County for hitting Queen in the crosswalk.
In Counts I, II and III, the lawsuit accuses The Thrasher Group, A. Morton Thomas & Associates, Inc., Dennis Corporation and Quality Counts, LLC of negligence.
The plaintiff asks for a jury trial and seeks compensatory damages, pre-judgment and post-judgment interest and legal fees.
In a filing with the West Virginia Legislative Claims Commission, Queen has submitted a notice of claim against the West Virginia Department of Transportation/Division of Highways and the WVU Board of Governors.
In this document, the DOH and the WVU Board of Governors are accused of having “clear knowledge that a pedestrian bridge over Monongahela Boulevard was necessary ‘to eliminate dangerous pedestrian-vehicle conflicts’ and inexplicably failed to take appropriate action to protect WVU students and others from this dangerous and completely avoidable risk. In other words, the WVUBOG and the WVDOH knew better, and changed the plans anyway.”
In Counts I and II, the WVU Board of Governors and the Division of Highways are accused of negligence in the incident.
The plaintiff is requesting the the West Virginia Legislative Claims Commission grant her claim for money damages in the amount of $25 million against the Division of Highways and the WVU Board of Governors.