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"We feel it is a dangerous crosswalk": Spokane pedestrian sues city for $3.1 million

KREM-TV Spokane 3/28/2023 Amanda Roley

A man nearly died at a North Spokane crosswalk on Division Street and now the city of Spokane is expected to pay him $3.1 million in a settlement.

Spokane County court documents say, in November 2018, Benjamin Gedeon used the Rhoades Avenue and Division Street crosswalk to return to work from lunch at Panera.

He cleared the three northbound lanes on Division and waited in the median for southbound traffic to pause. A truck in the inside lane and another car in the outside lane slowed. But, the car in the center lane failed to stop. This caused Gedeon to hit the windshield and was thrown 51 feet onto the street.

Gedeon suffered traumatic brain injury from this collision. He was hospitalized at Sacred Heart and intubated for about a week. Documents say doctors had to remove a part of his skull, which required Gedeon to wear a helmet for a month. Then he had a second surgery a few months later. 

Gedeon's attorney, Cindy Schwartz, said he still has difficulty with daily activities. 

"He had a very long rehabilitation process," Schwartz said. "Just learning how to eat, how to walk and speak again. At first he didn't even know people that came to see him."

The lawsuit said Schwartz's team found four other victims were hit by cars and seriously injured when they attempted to cross the same intersection. The complain lists the incidents as follows:

  • May 24, 2012: a 50-year-old man was struck in the outside southbound lane at the Division St./ Rhoades Ave. crosswalk
  • Feb. 16, 2014: a 21-year-old woman was struck in the outside southbound lane after a driver in the inside stopped for her. The woman was also almost struck by a driver in the middle lane. 
  • Sept. 28, 2016: a 60-year-old woman was struck in the outside southbound lane. The woman died due to complications from traumatic brain injury sustained in the collision. 
  • July 15, 2017: a 35-year-old man was struck in the inside southbound lane after crossing the other two southbound lanes. 

"This just helped reinforce the fact that it's a dangerous crosswalk and motorists don't really realize that there is a crosswalk there," Schwartz said.

According to the lawsuit, an engineering firm, David Evans & Associates, prepared a study for the city in 2008 regarding pedestrian crossings on Division. In that study, the firm specifically said flashing signals/beacons would be needed at the Rhoades Avenue crosswalk for pedestrian safety.

Something like the flashing beacons seen at Ruby Avenue near Gonzaga, which stops traffic completely. Or signals illuminate the pedestrian crosswalk sign that heighten drivers' awareness of a crosswalk ahead. 

But, documents say the city did not include such signals when it built the Rhoades Ave. crossing four years later.  

"We feel it was a dangerous crosswalk and there wasn't notice to oncoming drivers that there might be pedestrians lawfully crossing there," Schwartz said. 

Gedeon's medical bills following the 2018 collision totaled $494,307, according to the lawsuit. 

Spokane's city council is expected to approve the $3.1 million settlement at its meeting Monday night. Taxpayer dollars will cover up to $1.25 million and insurance will pay the remaining $1.75 million.

Although crosswalk improvements are not part of the settlement, spokesperson Brian Coddington said it is currently evaluating options and searching for funding to make the Rhoades Ave./Division St. crossing safer. 

Something Gedeon is happy to hear. 

"He worries about other people getting hurt at the same intersection," Schwartz said. "So finding out that the city's going to be putting a warning system at that intersection has made him very, very happy."

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