Bus crash passengers, pedestrian seek damages from city of Steamboat Springs
May 12, 2017
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Two people injured in a bus crash and a woman struck by a snowplow on a pickup are among the people seeking damages from the city of Steamboat Springs.
In response to a Colorado Open Records Act request, the city released the five "notices of claim" it has received since January 2016. A person is required to send a government the notice in order to later file a lawsuit.
The city sends the notices to its insurance company.
"If they look at it and decide we're liable, they might decide to settle the claim before a lawsuit is filed," city attorney Dan Foote said.
Jennifer Garrett is seeking in excess of $250,000 in damages from the city.
On Dec. 15, Garrett was walking north on Elk River Road at about 6 p.m. when she was struck by a pickup being driven by a Clark man at the Downhill Drive intersection. According to the claim, Garrett was crossing Elk River Road so she could face traffic and headlights while walking on the side of the road.
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According to the police report, the driver of the pickup said he was driving home and saw a person walk into the road in front of him. He attempted to swerve, but Garrett was struck by the plow. Police did not have any reason to believe the driver had been drinking.
Garrett was thrown about 80 feet after being struck, according to the claim. She suffered a broken hip in four places, a compound fracture to her leg, a fractured vertebrae, an elbow injury, vision issues and multiple lacerations.
Garrett is being represented by Steamboat attorney Ralph Cantafio, who did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday. The driver of the pickup was not ticketed.
At the hospital, police learned Garrett had a blood alcohol content of 0.42, more than five times the legal limit for driving a car.
According to Cantafio, Garrett was placed in a "perilous position" because Garrett was struck at an area where there "exists no adequate sidewalk to allow for safe passage of a pedestrian, there is not adequate lighting so that a pedestrian can safely travel off the roadway," and there was no crosswalk.
"Basically, through no fault of her own, Ms. Garrett was forced to cross (ElK River Road) confronting unsafe conditions," the notice states.
Two other lawsuits the city faces come from people injured during a snowstorm March 29, 2016, in a bus crash involving one of the city's regional transit buses on U.S. Highway 40.
Harrison Ziskind, 29, of Steamboat, was driving his Ford Explorer when he lost control while going around a curve. Police determined three of the tires on Ziskind's Explorer were bald.
According to the Colorado State Patrol, the crash was in no way the bus driver's fault. After the collision, the bus went off the road and hit the hillside, sending the passengers crashing into seats and other objects on the bus. The passenger seats did not have seat belts.
Foote said there are five people, including the bus driver, who are seeking damages. Foote said the city carries $50,000 worth of insurance for crashes involving uninsured and underinsured drivers.
Passengers Chris Austin and Connie Preston had their Denver attorneys send formal notices of claim to the city.
According to the claim, Austin suffered a traumatic brain injury, facial lacerations, permanent scarring, loss of earnings and earning capacity. Austin is seeking $350,000 in damages.
His attorney is claiming the city "breached duties of care," which caused Austin to be injured. According to Preston's claim, her head bounced off the back of a seat in front of her and again off her own seat.
Preston suffered a broken nose, concussion and neck and shoulder pain. Preston's damages are not specified in the claim. Preston's attorney, Wesley Eddington, said Preston had to file the notice with the city in order to collect money from her personal insurance company.
"She's not blaming the city one single bit," Eddington said.
To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @sbtstensland.