Top 10 jury verdicts against, settlements by Oregon Department of Transportation

Here are the top 10 settlements and jury verdicts paid out by the state for claims against the Oregon Department of Transportation. In most cases, state lawyers reached a settlement before the claims made it to trial and in some cases, even before a lawsuit was filed.

1. Michael E. Nielsen — $1.8 million. Nielsen was seriously hurt and his motorcycle totaled when a state-owned van crashed into him as he was traveling along the Oregon coast on U.S. 101 in Florence in July 2012. The case ranks No. 8 on the top 10 list of overall payouts made by the state for its agencies[1], ranging from the Department of Human Services to the Department of Corrections.

2. Curtin R. Mitchell — $1.5 million. Mitchell was badly injured after a Department of Transportation pickup made a left turn and crashed into the car that Mitchell was riding in on Oregon 20 near the Hoodoo Ski Area in July 2009.

3. Estate of Steve Fritz — $1.45 million. Fritz, 54, died in September 2014 when a pickup driver veered across Interstate 5 near Salem, crashing head-on into Fritz’s car and killing him. His widow, Portland Commissioner Amanda Fritz, filed a lawsuit against the pickup driver and a Carson Oil truck driver who she claimed were responsible for the crash. Amanda Fritz didn’t sue the state, but the state ended up settling with her[2] in late 2015 because it thought it would be held liable.

4. Estate of Cary Fairchild — $750,000. Fairchild, 64, died from injuries she suffered in the passenger seat of Steve Fritz’s car during the September 2014 crash. Fairchild’s estate sued the same two drivers that Fritz’s estate faulted, but Fairchild’s estate also sued the state[3] for failing to erect cable median barriers that might have prevented the crossover crash. Read today’s story about the Fritz and Fairchild settlements here[4].

5. Estate of Lawrence Pendergrass — $400,664. This is the oldest case on the list. Pendergrass, who was riding his bicycle, died when driver Gary Robb suffered an epileptic seizure and crashed into him in October 1978. Pendergrass’ estate sued the state and won a jury verdict in a 1982 trial in Multnomah County. The estate claimed the state Motor Vehicles Division (I think that might be the old name back in 1978. I used this name because that’s the agency that was formally listed as a defendant in the lawsuit.) was negligent in failing to suspend Robb’s driver’s license, even though it knew of his epileptic condition.

6. Henry Manjarres — $375,000. Manjarres won a $270,000 jury verdict in 2005 during a Marion County trial, plus the state had to pay $105,000 in attorney’s fees. Manjarres, who has a Native American background, sued the Department of Transportation claiming that a former supervisor threatened and swore at him as retaliation after he filed a discrimination complaint.

7. Marcos Arevalo — $366,386. Arevalo sued his employer, the Department of Motor Vehicles, and won a jury verdict. Arevalo claimed he was demoted after unproven suspicions arose in 1999 that he was “selling” or otherwise improperly issuing drivers’ licenses to Spanish speakers who weren’t qualified. Oregon State Police and the DMV found no evidence of criminal conduct by Arevalo, according to a federal judge’s summary of the case. DMV is a branch of the state Department of Transportation.

8. Angela Ferlitsch — $250,000. Ferlitsch filed suit after she suffered broken bones and a head injury in 1999 when a driver high on drugs crossed the center line of U.S. 26 near Seaside and crashed into the car she was riding in. Her husband and 12-year-old granddaughter also were in the car but didn’t survive. Ferlitsch sued DMV, contending it shouldn’t have licensed the other driver given his extensive history of medical problems and driving suspensions. He’d also driven drunk and killed two other people a few decades earlier.

9. Estate of Bryan Chastain — $250,000. Chastain was a University of Oregon law student who died in October 2003 after he drove through a stop sign and onto Oregon 126 in Lane County at what his lawyer described as a poorly designed intersection. The Department of Transportation and Lane County each agreed to pay $250,000 to settle the lawsuit just before trial in 2005.

10. Guy Lawlor — $202,000. No information was available about this state payout in 1995. State officials say they no longer have records explaining the details, but Lawlor had filed a claim over a car crash.

Sources: State of Oregon, news stories, legal databases and court files.

— Aimee Green

503-913-4197

o_aimee[6]

References

  1. ^ its agencies (www.oregonlive.com)
  2. ^ settling with her (www.oregonlive.com)
  3. ^ sued the state (www.oregonlive.com)
  4. ^ settlements here (www.oregonlive.com)
  5. ^

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