A $440,000 settlement was recently reached in a case involving a single-vehicle crash at the intersection of county highways CW and SC in Jefferson County.
The driver in the crash, which occurred on Aug. 3, 2018, was traveling east on CW, leaving Watertown, when an oncoming car crossed into his lane. He was forced to brake, causing his Jeep to swerve and roll, and was killed.
The county had recently closed Highway CW east of where it meets Highway SC in order to perform road work. Two barricades had been placed across CW. There were no warning signs to alert drivers traveling east on CW that the highway was closed at SC. When the crash occurred, the oncoming car had been exiting the construction zone between the two barricades.
At the request of the local sheriff’s department, the Jefferson Highway Department later set up bright orange advance warning signs to alert drivers of the construction zone ahead.
In arguing the case, Krista LaFave and Victor Harding of Warshafsky, Rotter, Tarnoff & Bloch contended Jefferson County had failed to follow the requirements for the placement of warning sign (statute §349.065) and to comply with a manual on uniform traffic control devices, rendering the worksite on Highway CW unsafe (statute §101.11(1))
Because of these failures, LaFave and Harding contended, statute §893.80(3)’s $50,000 limit on cases “founded in tort” was inapplicable. They cited subsection (5) “When rights or remedies are provided by any other statute against any [municipality] for injury, damage or death, such statute shall apply and the limitation in (3) shall be inapplicable.”
The Jefferson County Circuit Court held that Wis. Stat. §349.065 did not create a “true” right and that the statutory caps applied. The attorneys and decedent’s widow continued to press the issue as well as argue there had been a safe-place violation. The case was scheduled for trial after the court denied a motion for summary judgment by Jefferson County.
After weeks of negotiations, Jefferson County agreed – the day before the trial was to start – to pay $440,000 to resolve the matter.