MALTBY — The state has agreed to pay $2.75 million to a Monroe woman who suffered serious injuries in a rollover crash with a state Department of Transportation vehicle on Highway 522 in 2018.
Kara Janneh’s lawyer said the case is indicative of a systemic safety issue on the road that has been called the “highway of death.” He argued it speaks to the need for more concrete barriers on that road.
On March 5, 2018, Janneh was driving her Jeep Cheroke east on Highway 522 near Echo Lake Road. Her 2-year-old son was in his car seat in the back. Driving in front of her was a Washington State Department of Transportation pickup, according to her lawsuit filed in King County Superior Court.
The pickup driver tried to make an illegal U-turn in this stretch of road with two, spaced-out yellow lines and rumble strips in between. Janneh had “no time to stop,” her lawyer David Crump said.
“This isn’t just an accident,” Crump said, claiming the WSDOT employee was trained to make that illegal U-turn.
Her Cherokee went airborne and rolled over twice, before landing on its wheels. Janneh’s first thought was the safety of her son, who she worried was dead, the lawyer said. But he escaped major injury.
Janneh suffered serious harm, however, including a traumatic brain injury, Crump said.
In 2019, she sued the state Department of Transportation. Over three years later, in September of this year, the state conceded the crash was its fault in court filings. Shortly after, the lawsuit was settled for $2.75 million.
Janneh was represented by Crump and Edward Harper of Kirkland-based Harper Law.
In an email, a WSDOT spokesperson confirmed the settlement, but declined to comment on the case.
In the 3 miles between Paradise Lake Road near Maltby and the Snohomish River Bridge, the highway is just two lanes. This stretch of highway is notorious for serious crashes.
In 2014, a couple in one car and a baby girl in another died in a head-on crash in the same area. The families sued the state, calling the highway “inherently dangerous” and pushing for median barriers between the lanes. The state settled that case for $3 million without admitting liability.
And in August, prosecutors charged a woman with vehicular homicide in a cross-over crash that killed one and seriously injured another on Highway 522 just west of the Snohomish River Bridge in 2020.
A major transportation package passed at the state Legislature this year included millions to widen Highway 522 between Maltby and the Snohomish River Bridge, where all of these crashes occurred.