SR-509crash Photo shows the extreme damage to the two vehicles on Dec. 18, 2013. [/caption] [caption id="attachment_78918" align="aligncenter" width="490"]SR509embankment The embankment that the suspect vehicle drove down before it “exploded into the passenger side of the Eakins’ vehicle.” Photos courtesy Washington State Patrol.[/caption] By Jack Mayne A lawsuit filed by a survivor and family of a woman killed in a fiery two-car accident in Burien a week before Christmas 2013 has been settled out of court with the help of a mediator, according to papers released after a freedom of information request by The B-Town Blog. A mediator on Jan. 27 granted $3.5 million to the Snohomish County survivor and family of the dead woman. King County and Burien each paid $1.75 million to settle the case, which was later dismissed. The City of Burien’s portion of the settlement was paid through its participation in the Washington Cities Insurance Association (WCIA). Clay Eakin and Rhonda Malland, daughter of Barbara Eakin – who was killed – said King County and the city of Burien set the stage for a deadly 2013 crash by failing to block off the end of a dead-end street above State Route 509, where the crash occurred. The couple was on their way from their Snohomish County home to Sea-Tac Airport for a post-marriage trip to Hawaii when Barbara Eakin was killed. The now dismissed lawsuit papers described the accident. The suit said that “without warning,” the Eakins’ vehicle was struck on its passenger side by a Chevy Malibu driven by Christopher Wittman, whose car had “plowed through the dead-end on the roadway above.” The suit said the vehicle came to rest on South 116th Street in Burien, traveled down the hill and onto the west side of SR 509, and “exploded into the passenger side of the Eakins’ vehicle,” killing Barbara Eakin and severely injuring Clay Eakin. He suffered “permanent and severe physical, cognitive, neurological, emotional and other injuries…” Prosecutors claimed that the defendant, Christopher Wittman, 25, was impaired by a combination of alcohol and marijuana and was distracted by using a cell phone. He was sentenced to 11 years in prison on charges of Vehicular Homicide (DUI), Vehicular Assault (DUI) and Reckless Endangerment. The now-closed lawsuit – which was originally filed for $16.5 million – said that King County and Burien were responsible for the “design, construction, maintenance and repair, signage and safety of the roadways in Burien,” and therefore responsible for the severity of the accident. Burien had annexed the area from the county in 2010 and the original lawsuit said the city should have fixed the problems with the street-end, perhaps with the assistance of the county. Read our previous coverage of this incident here.]]>

Senior Reporter Jack Mayne passed away in December, 2021. In his honor we have created the Jack Mayne Journalism Scholarship.

24 replies on “City of Burien has paid $1.75 million to settle 2013 death and injury SR 509 crash”

  1. Terribly sad story, but the fault of the accident had nothing to do with Burien, the killer ran through a stop sign through the dead end sign down the embankment, across the freeway to hit the victims car.
    The killer was at fault, period.

    1. Why yes, he did violate traffic laws and did so while stoned, drunk and distracted. The city of Burien failed to insure no one in any circumstance could drive off the end of the road by the simple placement of a jersey barrier. What if grandma pressed the wrong pedal, Burien made no effort to solve a long standing issue by a cheap cement block.
      They admitted their guilt by paying out cash.

      1. Some of you are absolutely ridiculous. Do you want government monitors to help you cross the street and to tell you not to play in traffic too? Do we need jersey barriers everywhere we look “just in case.” What if someone drives up on the sidewalk and runs someone over? Sue the city because the curb wasn’t high enough? What if someone drives through the front doors of Safeway? Sue the company because there wasn’t a sign that says “please don’t drive through the front door” along with flashing neon lights? The only persob at fault was the drunk moron behind the wheel.

        1. I can figure out the bit about not playing in traffic (although apparently some can’t) but I do appreciate government help crossing SOME streets. They’re called crosswalks and walk signals. They don’t need to be at every intersection, but some are busier than others. There’s also a reason that there are often barriers in front of doors in parking lots. Same for dead end streets, some are more obvious/dangerous than others. This one is hard to see in the dark and there used to be signs and an end of street barricade. A decision was made that it was a dangerous enough dead end that they needed to be made stronger and more obvious so the originals were removed and supposed to be replaced but that didn’t happen. That’s where the government liability comes in. A speeding drunk might still have gone through the dead end, but a strong barricade would have probably slowed him down enough to prevent the fatal accident.
          I think I remember that people have driven off the end of that street before, just not fast enough to launch onto the freeway. I could be wrong about that though, I know that people often drive off the end of roads, boat launches and more.

        2. There’s a well defined line between simple negligence and stupidity. Putting it it drive instead of reverse is a mistake, driving through a stop sign to an unguarded dead end created by city negligence is another.

  2. I think Burien and King County are partially responsible. They should have had a guardrail there. Main responsibility is the driver of course.

  3. It’s sad that in cases like this lawyers just see $$$. I wonder how much money did the attorneys in this case and mediator received. Was there anyway the deceased would have made 3 million dollars if they would have lived out the rest of there life. Other than a slim chance of lottery pay out. I understand the family members are suffering. Why not go after the driver that was breaking the law.

    1. Wow, Jimmy! I had to read that a couple times to believe it. That is really cold blooded. What does it matter if you think they wouldn’t make three million in their full life. They will never get the opportunity now will they. What is your life worth, Jimmy?

      1. Cold blooded really since the lawyers are going get almost half of that amount for what?
        For going o well the driver that was drunk and high and on his phone that ran a stop sing and did not pay attention to the DEAD END sign. Can’t afford to pay multi millions in a law suit so let go after the tax payers that had nothing to do with this morons thought process that put him behind the wheel and made him choose to fly down that road and over the hill.
        In the 30 years I lived in the area I realize most people go hey that’s a dead end there a freeway running behind it. Oh lets see should we go 80+ mph and see what happens no lets not.
        So what’s cold blooded is the fact that the lawyers in this case wanted to only fill their pockets with the tax payers dollars it has nothing to really do with the family or how they feel This why they started at 16 million so they could still get a few million in the end. Just because a city or county makes a simple budget related mistake and some moron decided to break the law and cause a accident. Why was it automatically a multimillion dollar lawsuit.
        And if you look back at it where would the city or the county get the funds to put in the barrier at that time. Would the barrier cost 3 million dollars or 16 million dollars so where did the lawyers get their amount from.

        1. You’re making sense to me, Jimmy. We live in a sue-happy society filled with ambulance chasing vultures. We also live in an entitlement society in which fewer people take responsibility for their own actions. If something happens, its someone else’s fault. There is a time and a place for lawsuits, but now everything is governed by them – whether its the stack of documents you must sign at the doctor’s office or the permissions slips parents must sign before school field trips, etc. Everything now is geared toward avoiding lawsuits should something happen.
          And its possible we might elect a sue happy (faux) billionaire as president.

          1. That’s 3 people (thumbs downers) that live such pitiful lifes they felt the need to thumbs down a thank you comment. I suggest these 3 pitiful soul’s seek some help. For there issue’s.
            But then again these 3 won’t take any advice from me.

  4. Good for them! Sometimes you need to crack a lawsuit over their heads to get them to listen … the interest of public safety that barrier should have been up and protecting citizens way before the accident happened. I hope the award covers the cost of dealing with estate issues and on going medical costs and considerations.
    This from 2 years ago regarding the status of the road and its barrier status ;
    ““The claim alleges the county removed a guard rail and several warning signs at the dead end in 2009 and ordered them replaced with a larger, more sophisticated barricade. But despite repeated complaints from neighbors, the city and county failed to replace them, leaving the dead end unmarked and unprotected.”
    And someone died because of it. And since when is it a lottery to have a loved one smashed to bits and killed?

  5. Let me enlighten you, Jimmy, and anyone else who cares, as I work in the field.
    1. It is likely the family chose and approached a law firm to help them fix (as best as they can) the wrong. This is how most cases come about.
    2. Plaintiff attorneys tend to receive approximately 33% of a monetary award on a contingent fee basis unless they choose to do the work without charge (pro bono).
    3. Mediators do not receive a percentage of a settlement value. Mediators are paid based on how long the mediation itself lasts, which is usually in half-day and full-day increments with an hourly charge for any additional time spent. A mediator bill is typically split between all involved parties and totals a few thousand.
    4. There are many types of damages in these kinds of cases, not just lost future income from the deceased. Remaining family members can collect what are referred to as “loss of consortium” damages as well. Feel free to look that one up for the specifics. Assigning a dollar figure to a lost life is a pretty difficult matter, and takes into account pain/suffering of the deceased as well, but our justice system does the best it can to generate a dollar amount that tries to be as fair as possible.
    5. They went after the driver as well. He is a listed defendant in the case.
    6. Obviously, the idiot driver is mostly to blame on a moral level, but if a road has not been properly maintained per the standards outlined in federal/state/municipal laws, the city is indeed liable for not meeting said standards.
    The media has the tendency to not fairly report both sides of a case. It would be beneficial for all citizens to educate themselves on our legal system; imperfect as it may be, I think it did a good job of obtaining justice in the wake of a loss of life here. The city did the right thing by not dragging the plaintiffs through the rigors of a trial.

    1. Well better burien I am going have to take what you say with grain a salt. Since you state you work in the field of law. Most lawyers and attorneys will back each other up in situations like this.
      It’s screwball system

      1. You are welcome to fact check everything I’ve said. The internet is at your fingertips!

    2. Oh – I am sure the lawyers’ interest in this case was altruistic, and not based on desire for $$$ at all. Please.

  6. Has anyone look at how many accidents like this have happened at that intersection since it was put in. How ever long ago it was put in. Don’t you think the county and city look at this and came to a conclusion that in a tough budget it would be better to spend road service funds on more important projects. Since a accident like this has or does not happen very often.
    Now I understand the family members need some money for pain and suffering and loss of wages. I just feel this amount to be a little much.
    Also if betterburien is right the lawyers in this case are getting about $990,000 that could buy a couple of house’s in Hawaii or a new sports car. For one morons careless decision to drink and drive.

  7. Wow I wonder how many of these people that thumbs down my recent comments have realize there paying the taxes that are paying this 3 million dollars. Surprised to see so many thinking I am cold blooded or wrong about this.
    But then again this blog gets more than 80,000 views a month meaning there’s approximately 2,000 a days so 9,19 or even 1000 thumb’s down won’t effect my personal views or opinions.

    1. Honestly Jimmy, the amount of misinformation you spread is astounding. From the article itself: “The City of Burien’s portion of the settlement was paid through its participation in the Washington Cities Insurance Association (WCIA).” What part of that sounds like taxpayer dollars to you?
      And Peter, why do any of us undertake schooling/training and pick up a career? For money, of course. Because our society is one driven by money. Are there greedy attorneys? Sure. Just like there are greedy cashiers, contractors, teachers, etc. Most attorneys I’ve come across are decent people who genuinely strive for the best resolution for their clients. If you read my earlier post, you’ll realize it’s not the attorneys calling the shots–it’s their clients, who choose to hire them to attempt to bring justice to a scenario. Let’s try to keep the ignorant blanket statements to a minimum and use our brains for more than just passing judgment.

      1. So Betterburien you want the people of burien to think that the Washington Cities Insurance Association. Does all there work for free and tax payers are not paying the deductible for the insurance page 24 of link below has information on deducible amount’s .
        Now we also have to wonder if the city deductible will now go up do to this settlement.
        Also Betterburien Just in case you are not aware city’s and government’s are funded by tax’s payers dollars for the most part. So what make’s you think the tax payers are not paying for this in the end.

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