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Financial deal reached in crashes near Battle Ground schools bus stop

The survivor of one car crash and family of a girl who was killed in another near a Battle Ground school bus stop will collectively receive nearly $1.7 million in pending settlement deals.

Justin Carey, now 22, and Elizabeth Smith were both struck by vehicles near a Battle Ground Public Schools bus stop near the corner of Northeast 289th Street and 82nd Avenue. Elizabeth, who was 11, died from her injuries.

Carey and Elizabeth’s family filed a joint lawsuit in 2017 against Clark County, Battle Ground Public Schools and the district’s transportation contractor, Cascade Student Transportation, as well as the individuals who struck them. They alleged negligence by the bus company, school district and county in providing safe transportation to students.

While the details of both settlements are still being finalized, the dollar amounts have been determined. Elizabeth’s family will receive nearly a half-million dollars minus attorney’s fees, according to court records. Justin Carey, who lost his lower right leg in a crash at the same bus stop in 2013, is expected to receive about $1.2 million, according to settlement records and an attorney for the school district.

Elizabeth, who was a student at Daybreak Primary and Middle School, was struck by a southbound minivan on Oct. 19, 2016, after she crossed 82nd Avenue to visit with friends who were waiting on the other side of the street.

According to the settlement agreement filed last month, Elizabeth’s family will receive $202,500 minus attorney’s fees split between the defendants’ insurance carriers. Cascade Student Transportation will pay out $67,500 in reimbursements, and Clark County will pay $75,000. Dennis Lemke, the man who hit her, will pay $60,000.

Elizabeth’s younger sister, who is now 13, will receive $290,000 minus attorney’s fees in the form of a four-year educational fund upon turning 18, as well as deferred lump sum payments. According to court records, the sister watched as Lemke struck Elizabeth, and subsequently experienced emotional trauma and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Jill Sasser, an attorney serving as the girl’s guardian ad litem in the settlement case, recently noted in court that the girl will likely be the first in her family to attend college. In a court filing, Sasser described the girl as a “resilient child” who is “handling this loss as well as could be hoped for.”

Carey, who was hit by Shaun Johnson on June 12, 2013, as he waited for the school bus, is expected to receive $400,000 from Clark County’s insurance carrier and $800,000 from Cascade Student Transportation’s insurance carrier, minus attorney’s fees.

Carey was found lying in the bushes by a tow truck driver. His lower right leg was amputated due to his injuries.

Johnson was convicted, for a second time, in 2017 of vehicular assault for hitting Carey. A jury in 2015 had convicted her of vehicular assault and methamphetamine possession, but the convictions were overturned after the Washington Court of Appeals ruled the Clark County sheriff’s deputy who found the drug in her purse had searched it illegally. The drug was not mentioned in her second trial.

The original suit alleges the intersection where the bus stop is located is dangerous, with no traffic lights, no stop signs, narrow shoulders and steep ditches on either side of the road.

According to the suit, the bus stop was located on the slope of a blind hill, with limited sight line of the bus stop for southbound traffic and limited ability for students or vehicles waiting at the bus stop to see approaching southbound vehicles.

There have been no changes to the bus stop.


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