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Suing Utah over bad road design may get harder

Published February 19, 2013 2:02 pm
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

It may soon be tougher to sue the Utah Department of Transportation over poor road design or conditions that contribute to crashes.

The Senate voted 28-0 on Monday to pass SB50, and sent it to the House. Its sponsor, Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, said it would reverse a Utah Supreme Court decision last that he says makes it easier to sue the state anytime a potentially dangerous road condition contributes to an accident.

The decision arose from a 2004 accident in Layton where victims say the state should have had a barrier on Interstate 15 to stop cars from crossing into opposing traffic. Hillyard has said fiscal analysts figure the state could lose $1 million in lawsuits a year without the bill from people contending any form of dangerous condition should have been fixed and avoided.

He said the state has limited budgets, and fixes the most severe problems first. The bill, as amended, says that nothing in UDOT's defined responsibilities "shall be construed as expanding or changing the department's common law duty of care for liability purposes."

Roger Christensen, the defense attorney in the Layton crash case, in committee testimony had called the bill "vague and overly broad," and said it would mean that when UDOT "becomes aware of a safety problem, it has no obligation to address it reasonably."

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