A Chattaroy man who was impaled by a fallen tree branch while driving in an intense windstorm in 2014 now is suing Spokane County, claiming county workers allowed the tree to grow too close to the roadway.
Carlton Evans suffered traumatic injuries on July 23, 2014, when an 8-inch-wide tree branch crashed through the windshield of his sedan on Big Meadows Road. He veered off the road and crashed, and emergency personnel found him with the branch sticking out of his lower abdomen, pinning him to his seat. His left hand was severed and required full amputation.
The tree was on county property near the intersection of Big Meadows Road and Yale Road. Evans and his wife, Margaret Evans, claim the county violated its own standards and federal highway regulations by allowing the tree to grow less than 12 feet from the roadway. There should have been a 16-foot buffer zone, said one of their attorneys, Janelle Carney.
“The very purpose of these regulations is to protect all the motorists on the roadway,” Carney said, “and the county failed to do that.”
Carney said Carlton Evans now uses a walker due to complications from hip and lower back injuries. She said the accident also cost him his job as a BNSF Railway engineer.
The lawsuit was filed last week in Spokane County Superior Court. The couple is seeking unspecified damages for the physical injuries and “loss of emotional support, love and affection, care, services, and companionship.”
County spokeswoman Martha Lou Wheatley-Billeter said she couldn’t comment on pending litigation, and a message left for a county maintenance supervisor was not returned Monday.
The windstorm that led to Evans’ injuries wreaked havoc on the Inland Northwest, toppling trees that crushed homes and cars and cutting power to more than 60,000 homes and businesses.
Carney said multiple trees were growing too close to the roadway. She said she had inquired about maintenance work in the area, but “the county has failed to provide to us any evidence that they were even trying to do something about this.”
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