Arizona Supreme Court Hears Case About State Liability For Roadway Accidents




12/10/14 - Tuesday morning the Arizona Supreme Court heard a case about state liability for roadway accidents. The case involves a fatal car crash from 2007 that happened on Interstate 10 south of Phoenix. A car crossed over into oncoming traffic injuring one person and killing two others.

A jury held the state responsible for not having the proper safety equipment such as median barriers. Attorney Timothy Aiken represents the family involved in the crash. “You don’t get to sue just because someone changed the national standard," he said. "But this is different, this is maintaining safety.

We aren’t just saying 'Oh, a median barrier would have been a good idea here.'" Aiken said the barriers were needed because there have been high numbers of accidents on the same stretch of Interstate 10. The two sides disagree on whether median barriers are considered maintenance. Fred Zeder is the attorney for the state.

He argued an Arizona statute excludes the state from liability from road accidents as long as the roads met standards at the time they were built. “The question here is did this accident arise from that design? The answer is yes," Zeder said.

"Does the state have a duty to keep its roads safe? Of course it does. But it is circumscribed by this statute. And that statute says that duty does not include a duty to upgrade.”

Chief Justice Scott Bales referenced court documents that show a crossover crash on this stretch of road is 29 times more likely than on the average highway.