Although the city of Washington has no jurisdiction or responsibility for the Augusta Bottom Road in Warren County, the city, for now, remains a plaintiff in a 2012 wrongful death lawsuit.
Last month, 12th District Circuit Judge Wesley Dalton heard arguments on a motion to dismiss the city as one of the plaintiffs in the suit filed by the parents of Ella Neier, 16, Washington. Neier died Oct. 22, 2010, when the car she was driving traveled off a section of the road referred to as the Augusta Parkway and crashed into a lake along the road.
Judge Dalton took the arguments under advisement and issued a ruling June 10 denying the motion to dismiss the city of Washington.
Meanwhile, another defendant, the town of Augusta, has been released from the suit under a partial settlement agreement approved by the court last month. The terms of the settlement currently are sealed as the case against other defendants proceeds.
Judge Dalton approved the confidential settlement between the plaintiffs, David Neier and Dawn Tucker, parents of Ella Neier, and the town of Augusta on June 6.
With the dismissal earlier this year of Franklin County and Three Creeks Village, the remaining defendants in the suit are the city of Washington, Warren County and St. Charles County.
The plaintiffs allege that the defendants failed to properly maintain and improve the roadway, leading to the fatal crash.
The lawsuit states the plaintiffs are seeking in excess of $25,000 in damages plus court costs, attorney fees and other relief from each of the defendants.
The 1.9-mile bottom road sits atop a levee and provides a link between Warren and St. Charles counties.
The Augusta Parkway section is in Warren County but county officials have refused to maintain that section since it was rebuilt after the 1993 Missouri River flood with a grant obtained by the town of Augusta.
The city of Washington, in the past, has graded the Augusta Parkway portion of the road at the request of the Augusta Town Board.
But the city has denied the allegation by plaintiffs that the city provided gravel or granular material for the road. City officials have said in the past that they provided a road grader and operator to grade the existing gravel on the road but did not provide any additional material.
The plaintiffs alleged in their argument that the road “should have been properly maintained” by the defendants including the city of Washington.
“Plaintiffs’ complaint is about the way a roadway was maintained which was located across the river from the city of Washington, in a different county,” the city’s attorney argued in the motion for dismissal.
The city also stated that the plaintiffs’ claims are prohibited by the Doctrine of Sovereign Immunity.
The plaintiffs’ attorney cited exceptions to the sovereign immunity defense, alleging that Ella Neier’s death was due to “a public employee’s negligent operation of a motor vehicle in the course of his employment” and as a result of a dangerous condition of property that “a municipality exercised such dominion and control as to rise to an ownership interest.”