Bus crash lawsuit frivolous

By Observer editorial April 12, 2013 08:47 am

The drive on Interstate 84 over the Blue Mountains in winter is often a challenge. Snow, ice, wind, fog: all are elements drivers accustomed to the stretch prepare to face. No matter how vigilant the Oregon Department of Transportation is, there will be occasions when snow covers the roadway, or even black ice, and drivers must exercise extreme caution.

Occasionally, crashes occur. One of the worst in memory happened Dec. 30, 2012, when nine people died in an awful crash just west of Dead Man’s Pass. Not surprisingly, a lawsuit has been filed naming the state of Oregon and ODOT as defendants and seeks at least $10 million in punitive damages.

Considering the tragedy, the lawsuit isn’t surprising. But it is disappointing. The lawsuit contends ODOT was negligent, among other reasons, because it failed to properly warn vehicle operators of unsafe conditions along the roadway, failed to require commercial vehicles to take an alternative route, and failed to equip that stretch of I-84 with barriers of sufficient strength to prevent vehicles from departing the roadway in the event of loss of control.

But that’s not all. The plaintiffs also argue that the other defendants — the bus company owner and the driver — were negligent for driving too fast under the circumstances, failing to possess or utilize traction devices, and failing to read and follow warning sings.

Something’s got to give. First, the lawsuit claims ODOT did not provide adequate warning of adverse conditions, yet the driver failed to heed warning signs. The lawsuit also implies ODOT would be negligent every time the roadway gets covered in slush or the surface gets icy. The lawsuit deserves a summary judgement that absolves the state and ODOT from any legal liability.