A Ramona family claims Caltrans is trying to silence their concerns about safety, by making them pay a $74,000 legal bill.
Alexandria Drake was killed in a head-on crash three years ago, on State Route 67, a windy highway connecting Lakeside and Ramona.
Her mother, Pamela McKeirnan, will never forget that terrible day.
Alex, as Pamela still calls her, was killed instantly, when an on-coming car crossed the divider, and hit Alex's car head-on. Alex’s infant son was in the backseat, and survived.
Today, Pamela told NBC 7, “I willingly would have died to take her place, so she could have raised my grandson.”
Alex’s family sued Caltrans. During the trial, their lawyer told jurors that Caltrans knew the high was dangerous, and had consistently declined to make improvements that would reduce accidents and protect public safety.
The attorney, Brett J. Schreiber, told jurors that Caltrans’ own statistics reveal that SR 67 has a fatality rate that’s twice the state-wide average.
But the jury sided with Caltrans. Now, Caltrans wants Pamela and her family to pay $73,802 in court costs.
Pamela claims the state agency is punishing her filing a lawsuit that she hoped would force Caltrans to improve that dangerous roadway.
“It was never about the money,” Pamela told NBC 7. “That would have been like blood money for us. That would have put a price on our child's life, and there is no price to put on our child's life."
Caltrans says it represents all state taxpayers, and that attempting to collect court costs is in “best interests of the state of California."
The agency says its collect legal costs in this case is "standard procedure" in civil litigation.
Caltrans says it actually spent more than $250,000 in legal fees on the case, so it’s only collecting a portion of what taxpayers’ paid to defend against the lawsuit.