A lawsuit has been filed against engineering firms on behalf of a WVU student who was critically injured in 2018 after being struck by a truck at a crosswalk.
The suit was filed by Loretta Blake, the mother of Sara Queen, a WVU student who was struck by a car on campus in 2018. The suit, filed in Monongalia County, targets the following companies: The Thrasher Group, A. Morton Thomas & Associates, Dennis Corporation and Quality Counts, LLC.
Blake is also requesting $25 million through the state Legislative Claims Commission as compensation against the West Virginia Division of Highways and WVU Board of Governors for Queen for harms, losses and damages, and general relief, according to the Legislative Claims Commission complaint.
Queen, then a 20-year-old junior, was hit by a vehicle at the intersection of Mon Boulevard and Evansdale Drive on Feb. 20, 2018. According to the Legislative Claims Commission complaint, She was struck by the vehicle’s side view mirror, causing severe brain and skull injuries.
The driver, also a WVU student, had run a red light prior to striking Queen.
Queen, who was on track to graduate with a degree in biochemistry, had aspirations of becoming a maxillofacial surgeon or general dentist, according to the Legislative Claims Commission complaint.
In 2008, a workshop was held to discuss the dangers this exact intersection posed to the thousands of students who use the crosswalk everyday. According to the complaint, the goal of the stakeholders at the workshop was to construct a pedestrian bridge to eliminate the dangers of the intersection, while also doubling as a gateway to campus.
In the same year, WVU was awarded a grant of $300,000 by the West Virginia Division of Highways, from the Federal Highway Administration’s Transportation Enhancement Program administered by the WVDOH to construct the bridge, according to the complaint.
The complaint says the bridge would have reduced congestion, provided pedestrians safe access to both areas because of high vehicle and pedestrian traffic and eliminated the potential of vehicle or pedestrian conflicts.
On March 20, 2009, WVDOH and WVUBOG entered into a written agreement for the design and construction of the bridge, according to the complaint. The total cost of the project was set at $375,000. WVU was set to be reimbursed 80% of the funds up to $300,000. WVU agreed to pay 20% of the estimated total, or $75,000, according to the complaint document.
In November 2009, the project was put on hold, and in April 2010, the WVDOH sent a letter to WVU, requesting information and recommending cancellation of the project. According to the complaint document, the WVDOH was aware of the dangers the intersection posed to pedestrians.
Alternative projects were later proposed and approved by the WVDOH sent from the WVUBOG and its contractors in September 2011. These alternative plans created a new cross-walk at the intersection, cancelling out any plans to install a bridge.
According to the document, those involved were well aware of the dangers the road posed to pedestrians. A WVDOH employee said in an email, “[t]hat whole area is dangerous, with or without construction going on.”
This new crosswalk was implemented in July 2017, six months prior to Queen’s incident.
According to the Monongalia County complaint, The Thrasher Group was hired to design and oversee the project. AMT and Dennis were hired to do traffic assessments, and Quality Counts were hired to perform traffic and pedestrian counts.
The defendants named in the Monongalia County complaint are being accused of negligence.
The suit seeks to “fairly and fully” compensate the plaintiff for “harms, losses and damages.” In addition, the plaintiff seeks interest, litigation expenses and attorney fees.