A suit has been filed against the City of Poulsbo related to a pair of incidents in 2017 in which one pedestrian was killed and another seriously injured after being struck by vehicles. The two incidents occurred less than a week apart.
Henry Jones, an attorney with the Bremerton law firm Friedman Rubin filed suit Jan. 18, on behalf of the estate of Pamela Romberg. Romberg was killed after being struck by a vehicle as she crossed Front Street near Torval Canyon Road while walking her dog. The driver of the car that hit Romberg is also listed as a defendant in the suit, despite an investigation determining that the driver was not under the influence of any substance or impaired when she hit the woman.
Jones said he intended to file a second suit sometime in February, on behalf of Kathryn Heimbach — who survived her injuries after being struck near the Hostmark Street and Caldart Avenue intersection. The subject matter of both suits are not foreign to the attorney either.
In early 2017, Kitsap County settled with Jones’ client, Regina Monzon, to the tune of $5 million after she was struck by a vehicle in a poorly lit crosswalk as she and her brother walked to school. Monzon’s brother was also awarded $500,000 in the settlement.
“The similarities are striking in that both Ms. Romberg and Ms. Heimbach were struck when they were almost safely to the other side [of the road],” Jones said. “The drivers both claimed that it was too dark, that they couldn’t see them.”
In the case of Monzon, the county was prompted to install an additional street light at the crosswalk where Monzon was hit. Jones noted that in the two cases against Poulsbo, he would be seeking similar lighting improvements for future safety.
“It’s inexcusable to have poor lighting and poor crosswalk designs,” the attorney said. “The Monzon case was well publicized and [the City of Poulsbo] should have taken notice and done something.”
In 2017, following the incidents, the city formed a Pedestrian Safety Advisory Committee which examined pedestrian infrastructure and recommended improvements. This process resulted in the city stating it would construct improvements at the location where Romberg was struck. Curb extensions, narrower lanes and a pedestrian refuge island were proposed for the site, but wouldn’t be built until between 2020 and 2022, as part of another city project.
In December 2017, Poulsbo Mayor Becky Erickson stated that it was the responsibility of drivers to keep pedestrians safe.
“Everybody needs to be paying attention and looking carefully as [they] drive,” she said. “You need to slow down. It’s raining buckets, it’s dark, people are wearing dark clothing and it’s dangerous … It is your responsibility to keep those pedestrians safe.”
To pedestrians, Erickson warned: “It’s dark out there, it’s December. You need to wear bright-colored clothes, you need to be perceptive … Don’t assume because you’re in a crosswalk that that car is going to see you. Make eye contact, wave at them.”
In a Jan. 30 interview, Jones found Erickson’s comments wanting.
“That’s a disappointing response, to blame the pedestrian,” he said. “Washington has clear case law that shows the pedestrian’s clothing is not a source of blame.”
When asked to comment on the recent suit filed, Erickson stated that city officials do not comment on pending litigation.
— Nick Twietmeyer is North Kitsap Herald’s interim editor. Nick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.