Support BikePortland - Journalism that Matters

City of Portland will pay $395,000 settlement in case of teen killed crossing Hawthorne

Posted by on April 28th, 2020 at 11:58 am

Memorial for Fallon Smart in August 2016.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

The family of a 15-year-old Cleveland High School student who was killed while crossing Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard in 2016 will be paid $395,000 by the City of Portland. The settlement comes from a lawsuit filed by the Estate of Fallon Smart. The suit alleged wrongful death and negligence from the Portland Bureau of Transportation based on conditions at the intersection of Hawthorne and SE 43rd.

The tragic death of this young Portlander and the maddening circumstances surrounding the man who killed her are blights our city will never fully recover from; but this relatively rare and large payment by PBOT could be a positive sign that road agencies will take more responsibility to keep our streets safe.

In August 2016 Smart was struck and killed at that intersection by Abdulrahman Noorah as he sped recklessly down Hawthorne. Noorah was never brought to justice and The Oregonian reported he escaped house arrest with help from the Saudi Arabian government.

The location where Smart was killed had been a source of concern for years from local residents and business owners. Despite being a popular commercial corridor, there were no marked crosswalks and the area was known to be a hot-spot for speeding. Seven months after the tragedy occurred, PBOT installed a painted crosswalk and raised center median island. They also reduced the speed limit from 25 to 20 mph.

SE Hawthorne and 43rd today.

Portland lawyer and safe streets activist Scott Kocher, who’s litigated similar cases himself, says the settlement is, “a big deal.” “As tragic as this situation is and as incomplete as the justice is, I think it’s an important result for everyone to take note of.”

Advertisement

“I believe the legal trend is following the social trend, which is to say that road injuries and deaths are out of control and transportation agencies actually have a part in that.”
— Scott Kocher, Forum Law Group

Historically it’s been very rare for government agencies and road authorities to be found liable for the unsafe condition of their streets. Under a sweeping legal concept known as “discretionary immunity” laws and the courts all but shielded government from responsibility. “There’s always been this fascinating question,” Kocher said in an interview today. “Where do you draw the line between a very dangerous roadway a city knows to be unsafe, versus making them fix every pothole immediately.”

In Kocher’s view, initiatives like Vision Zero and a growing urgency and awareness for safe streets in general, are finally catching up to the legal system. “The implication of vision zero is that you don’t just give the road authority a free pass for anything and everything, you view them as a proprietor of a place just as you’d view a hotel owner as proper of a hotel. If a hotel has rickety old railing, you can’t blame a user for falling on it. It’s the same if you’re a road authority and you know people are going 40-plus mph on Hawthorne past a bunch of cute little shops… at some point you’ve got to do something.”

“I believe the legal trend is following the social trend,” Kocher continued, “which is to say that road injuries and deaths are out of control and transportation agencies actually have a part in that.”

$395,000 is the largest amount Kocher has seen in a case like this. The fact that the City of Portland was willing to pay out this much means they felt a judge and jury would agree with the lawyer representing the Estate of Fallon Smart. He thinks it could have, “A ripple effect through agency decision making.”

Portland City Council will make the settlement official at their meeting tomorrow.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org
— Get our headlines delivered to your inbox.
— Support this independent community media outlet with a one-time contribution or monthly subscription.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

26
Leave a Reply

avatar
9 Comment threads
17 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
15 Comment authors
ZachclayPaul EAnnarain pantherJohnny Bye Carter Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Chris I
Guest
Chris I

4 to 3 diet conversions like this absolutely need to have solid medians about every 3 or 4 blocks. I have seen outrageous driver behavior on many of these streets when barriers are not included in the project (NE Glisan, Hawthorne, Division, etc). Can we have some sort of low-cost solution, like short concrete planters painted yellow? We don’t want to block intersection visibility, but we need to remove the idea that using the middle lane to pass traffic is a viable option.

Matthew in PDX
Guest
Matthew in PDX

I am so deeply saddened by the death of Fallon Smart and my condolences go out to all those who knew and loved her.

Initially I thought it would have been impossible for the perpetrator to get back to Saudi Arabia because he would have needed to take a very long flight, which, if direct, would need a large, wide-bodied jet. I clearly did not appreciate the lengths to which the Saudi regime will go to shield their citizens from justice. As a consequence of this, and the revelations of the Saudi government’s involvement, I think that all Saudi citizens should be considered an extreme flight risk when charged with a serious crime, and consequently held in custody until trial.

I think it is well past the time that road traffic planners in the USA started adopting best practices from around the world, including making extensive use of traffic circles/roundabouts and other speed reducing techniques. There is a lot of empirical evidence to show that these engineering techniques cut speed and consequently the frequency and severity of collisions between road users. We also need more extensive enforcement of traffic laws, especially the laws regarding speed, pedestrian crossings, operator impairment and vehicle safety/roadworthiness.

buildwithjoe
Guest

Please let me rant! Fallon was my student for 9th grade. I was the one the same night who painted the illegal white zebra crosswalk. Sue me.. Put me in jail. I do not care anymore. MLK talks about the need for maladjusted people who know (after you have attempted to reason with power ) you are compelled BY JUSTICE to take non violent action.

Jonathan, your, friends, and PDX transit leaders go easy on PBOT , Leah Treat and others

Leah is a huge component of why #FallonSmart got killed!

We have the same putrid pattern now as we did then. I feel disgusted by Chris Warner ( Leah’s replacement)
Reply to him on >> Twitter >> http://twitter.com/cwpdx13

Quoting the Oregon Live story:
“420 crashes…one-mile stretch of Hawthorne … 30th Ave and 50th Ave from 2005-2014”

Cities and entire countries have solved Vision Zero with leadership. It’s not money, it is mostly just leadership or lack of it.

>> More ranting >>> Fallon was killed one week before taking a 2nd year of my classes. She signed up! She helped every single kid in class even when they would be too shy to say they were stuck. It took the district 2 weeks to pull her picture off my seating chart. People have no idea what her mom and friends and family have gone through. Nothing. So many families and friends suffer for decades after these avoidable murders. 400k is nothing to the City. Large payouts have never changed Portland or any city. Look at the lack of action on police reform. Black Lives Matter, AND lawsuit payouts do very little to reform the system of power abuse. See footnotes for research on police violence.

PDX lacks leaders. We have bike sheep who go soft on our transit leaders. We should be ashamed of our lack of safety for pedestrians , and lack safe alternatives to driving alone. We should downgrade Portland from every transportation award and magazine. We should be revolted. We should be protesting and donating time/money to candidates who don’t make excuses. We should be revolting in the streets and pouring fake blood on ourselves at ODOT headquarters. I did that, and the result was fake bike activists in a fake group BIKELOUDPDX got all angry at some of us who did the fake blood trick. At every turn it was be less loud and work with the city. aHH PORTLAND where loud means be a sheep, stay in line.

>> more ranting and a picture… Mind you this was a year before Fallon was killed.

comment image

That picture above is fake blood. It was a year before Fallon was killed by the combined apathy of PBOT and the the “community” that should be holding PBOT and ODOT accountable.

Screw the system. Do what you can until the leaders of Street Trust and Bike Loud step aside. I have given over 2 Thousand to the BTA and hundreds to Bike Portland over the years. No more. Just buy shit and get it done with friends who don’t act like sheep.

Signed, Joe Rowe, Portland,

http://www.campuscopswithguns.com

Jon
Guest
Jon

Some needs to explain to me how it was the City’s fault that some irresponsible driver sped down the road and killed someone. The lawyer and client took $395,000 from us the taxpayers just because the City was the only entity with deep pockets. This intersection is no different than literally 1000’s of intersections all over this city and every city in the state. How about instead of enriching a lawyer and client have the judgment be used to pay for 3 traffic officers for a year or a couple of speed cameras. Our legal system is turning into some sort of lottery. A judgement like this does not make our streets any safer. It is actually the opposite since the city no longer has those funds to help stop speeders.

9watts
Subscriber

“Where do you draw the line between a very dangerous roadway a city knows to be unsafe, versus making them fix every pothole immediately.”

Actually the danger (of speeding) comes from too few potholes… if safety were the goal the city should put more in. 🙂

buildwithjoe
Guest

Note how PBOT only takes reactive action, rarely pro-active! Always one of the last cities to get minor safety upgrades:

April 27 The Oregonian reports PBOT and Portland agree to settle out of court for $400k due to PBOT negligence. I would have rather seen Leah Treat put on trial to defend her excuse it was only the driver. Which she noted on the record, and in a meeting I attended after Fallon’s death.

April 28th Noon, Bike Portland Reports on the $400 payout

April 28th 2pm. Bike Portland reports PBOT taking emergency action they should have taken on Mid March to close some streets to cars for safety

April 28th 3pm. PBOT tweets out News release that they are concerned people don’t have enough space to take walks for heath reasons in a virus crisis.

https://bikeportland.org/2020/04/28/portland-launches-100-mile-slow-streets-safe-streets-covid-19-response-effort-314063

https://twitter.com/PBOTinfo/status/1255238509121675267

Jon
Guest
Jon

Unlike Oregon it appears that Norway actually enforces its traffic laws. Of course we don’t want to do anything like that because 1) everyone seems to think that driving is a right when it is not and 2) the liberal hangup on “racial profiling” because in the past racial profiling was used on minorities. The profiling needs to be fixed and we need to get to a point where we can actually enforce the laws instead of just making excuses for allow people to break the laws. According to this Norway has “controls everywhere” with low speed limits and heavy fines. Reddit users say there are many speed cameras. In Portland we have almost no police officers in the traffic division and only a handful of cameras. But we do have a bunch of lawyers ready to make money by sueing the city if anyone gets killed or hurt.
http://www.speedingeurope.com/norway/

Johnny Bye Carter
Subscriber
Johnny Bye Carter

And the city will continue getting sued for incidents on this street because they’ve done nothing to address the abuse of the center lane. Every time I’m on this stretch of Hawthorne there are numerous people breaking the law by using this center lane illegally. The city could put a stop to it with some cheap planters and dirt. Cops won’t ticket people because the cops do the same stupid things as everybody else. They won’t ticket commercial vehicles because it’s “bad for business”. So we will continue suing the city until they start taking lives seriously and start taking action. If they ever start being proactive about these things then the lawsuits from their dangerously designed roads might start to dwindle down. Allowing people to go over 2x the speed limit is just asking for more death.

The city allows, and therefore essentially encourages, illegal behavior on this road.

Please keep suing them until they get serious about protecting their citizens.

Zach
Guest
Zach

If you’re reading this and want to help take action to make sure this NEVER happens again, please sign this petition: https://www.healthierhawthorne.com/