Two contractors will have to pay a total of around $2 million to the family of a man killed as a result of poor traffic control during construction on an Evansville intersection.
Casper resident Bill Gray, 62, had been riding his motorcycle west on Yellowstone Highway on Sept. 12, 2017, when he was hit by a driver making a turn onto Cole Creek Road.
Gray was flown to a Denver hospital with serious injuries and died 16 days later.
Construction on the highway — new asphalt and traffic lights — was being done by WYDOT contractor Knife River. That company in turn subcontracted with local company Roadworx, based in Mills, to set up traffic control in the area during the project.
Gray’s family filed a lawsuit against both companies that argued he was killed due to poor traffic control in the construction area around the intersection.
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The jury found that the traffic control was confusing, with some unnecessary signage and an unusual turning lane. Cars were made to stop far back from the actual intersection, which meant drivers turning left had to make an “atypical” turn.
In Gray’s case, the driver who hit him began turning left then realized she was heading into the wrong lane. She then did an S-curve move to correct, and was reportedly focused on finding the right lane when she collided head-on with Gray in the intersection. Court documents suggest Gray may have seen the driver’s correction and assumed she curved because she saw him coming.
“By and large if the traffic control had been set up correctly, this would have never happened,” said Todd Ingram, an attorney representing the Gray family.
Court documents say an engineer had flagged problems with the traffic control setup earlier that day — including confusing signs and unacceptable lane closures — but changes were made and signed off before the crash that evening.
The jury ruled that Roadworx bore 30% of the responsibility for the crash, and Knife River 60% since they were overseeing the subcontractor. Knife River’s appeal was based on the company’s assertion that it should not have been held responsible for the subcontractor’s mistakes.
Jurors awarded a total of $2.2 million to the family in the April 2021 trial, though the actual amount paid will be just under $2 million since the driver will not have to pay her 10% share, as she was not a defendant in the case.
After Tuesday’s ruling, the companies will be ordered to pay a total of around $1.7 million to Gray’s widow and another $270,000 to his daughter.
Ingram said Gray’s family was “pleased” by the high court’s decision, but that it’s still “bittersweet.”
“We remain hopeful that tragedies like this can prompt them to pay even more attention to safety,” he said, “so this doesn’t happen to another family.”