One minute, the sweet, bubbly toddler girl was playing in a garden in an open air mall with her older sister and nanny. Seconds later, she darted into the roadway, presumably to go play in a fountain outside a hotel across the street from the garden.
Tragically, a 25-year-old driver struck the little girl, resulting in fatal injuries.
Now, her parents, in Washington state, are taking action against the shopping center. They allege the garden, which was designed for play by preschool age children, violated a number of safety guidelines intended to protect small children where such designated play areas are located near streets and when there is no fence or gate to fully close it in.
Although there was a sign that warned motorists of children playing nearby, plaintiffs allege the sign was poorly placed, and overgrown bushes nearby made it difficult for drivers to see children darting into the road until seconds before they would have made impact.
Meanwhile, the driver of the vehicle has also been named a defendant, as are his girlfriend and her parents. The driver didn’t have a valid driver’s license, and his criminal record reflected his history as a habitual drug user. He reportedly was borrowing his girlfriend’s parents’ car – with their permission – to pick up his girlfriend from work at the time of the accident. The lawsuit alleges the parents/ vehicle owners were aware the man lacked a valid driver’s license and allowed him to drive it anyway.
This is known as negligent entrustment. In Florida, motor vehicles are considered a dangerous instrumentality, and so all vehicle owners are liable for the negligent actions of any drivers whom they allow to operate their cars – even if the vehicle owners had no reason to think that driver pose a danger.
A toxicology report indicated at the time of the crash, the driver had both methamphetamine and opiates in his system. Criminal charges against the man are pending, but have yet to be filed.
The lawsuit indicates the crash happened as the nanny was helping the 4-year-old child. The 2-year-old ran past her and exited through the garden’s entrance, which was 8-feet wide. The toddler then crossed the plaza and ran into the street, where she was struck by defendant driver.
He did stop, and passers-by rushed to aid the girl. They helped lift the vehicle off her and a physician, who was a guest at the hotel, started CPR. However, her injuries were too extensive. She died at the scene.
Plaintiffs say those overgrown bushes have since been trimmed. There has also been another sign installed that gives warning about the fact that children are playing nearby.
However, plaintiffs say the site still isn’t safe. Heavy traffic zooms by the play area, which also near a parking garage and a movie theater.
The parents say they are devastated, but wanted to file this wrongful death action quickly because they want to prevent a similar tragedy from befalling another child or family.
Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights. Now serving Orlando, West Palm Beach, Port St. Lucie and Fort Lauderdale.
Redmond Town Center sued over death of toddler hit by car, Sept. 11, 2015, By Sara Jean Green, The Seattle Times
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Castro v. City of Thousand Oaks – Pedestrian Industry Lawsuit to Proceed, Sept. 16, 2015, Orlando Car Accident Lawyer Blog