The North Carolina Department of Transportation is still liable to pay $3 million for the deaths of three people on a state roadway where a traffic signal was promised but never installed. That was the ruling handed down recently by the North Carolina Supreme Court in Holt v. N.C. DOT.
The state appealed the trial court verdict that found it was liable, despite the argument that fault rested solely with two drivers who were drag racing at speeds that topped nearly 90 mph. Justices ruled that fact didn’t negate the DOT’s responsibility to install this traffic light – one engineers knew was needed. Although state officials argued they could not anticipated every illegal action that might take place on a public road, the state high court justices found that speeding vehicles was a foreseeable possibility.
Victims in this case include a local professor and her 2-year-old daughter, who were on their way to church, and a 13-year-old boy who was returning from a nearby amusement park. According to appellate court records, the 13-year-old was riding in a vehicle with his 11-year-old friend, driven by a 20-year-old man. When the driver stopped for traffic at one intersection, he and decedent noticed two female friends in an adjacent vehicle. They began joking and gesturing at one another. When the light turned green, both drivers took off at a high rate of speed in the same direction, approaching the intersection where the professor was preparing to make a left turn. The two young drivers were engaging in a race in which speeds reached 86 mph. Continue reading →