County settles with 2011 Marysville crash victim for $375K

EVERETT — Snohomish County has agreed to settle a lawsuit with a former Marysville Getchell High School student injured in a 2011 car crash that killed a classmate who was driving at the time.

The settlement will pay $375,000 to Lars Kundu. After legal fees and expenses, Kundu is due to receive $100,000 to address head, spinal and other injuries suffered in the wreck. Under terms of the settlement, the county denies any fault.

The council voted 4-0 Monday to approve the settlement.

The lawsuit was filed in King County Superior Court in 2014. It followed a $50 million claim for damages. It sought to hold the county liable for safety conditions on the two-lane road where the crash occurred.

Kundu, the son of a former Marysville School Board member, was one of three students who left school before track practice on a late-October afternoon in 2011. He was the front-seat passenger as his friend, Juan Mendoza, drove a 1997 Honda Civic west on 108th Street NE. Another boy rode in the back seat.

The car went off the road and hit a tree near 83rd Avenue NE, on a steep slope some locals called “roller-coaster hill.”

Mendoza, 16, died at the scene. Friends and school staff remembered him as a scholar and a stand-out soccer player. Kundu, also 16 at the time, was airlifted to Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center in critical condition. So was the other passenger, whose injuries proved to be less severe.

The road had a posted speed limit of 35 mph, but sheriff’s office investigators concluded the car was traveling 60 to 76 mph before losing control. Detectives looked into reports that the teens had talked beforehand about “catching air” where the road drops.

Experts hired by the plaintiff’s attorneys suggested the stretch of road was so dangerous, it was unsafe at any speed above 17 mph.

The county spent nearly $1 million to make improvements to the road in 2012 and 2013. That included softening the crest of the road and building up the bottom, to lessen the incline along an 800-foot stretch.

Jim Dore, of the Dore Law Group in Kent, represented Kundu.

“The clients didn’t want to put the Mendozas through the trial,” Dore said. “They achieved the result they were looking for, which was fixing the road.”

His client’s injuries will never heal, he said — “not only physically, but mentally and emotionally.”

The settlement reached this week also ends claims sought by Mendoza’s family without any payment from the county.

“It is heartbreaking whenever young persons are seriously injured or killed in automobile accidents,” county deputy prosecuting attorney Michael Held said. “The families of these young men have our continued sympathies. The 2012 profile improvements to this stretch of old rural roadway both enhanced its drivability and made accidents like this one extremely difficult to repeat.”

Councilman Nate Nehring recused himself from the vote. Nehring said afterward that he attended Marysville Getchell with the teens and Mendoza was a close friend.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465; Twitter: @NWhaglund.

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