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Students sue City of Tucson, Arizona Board of Regents over 2015 hit and run

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Brandi Walker | The Daily Wildcat

A UA student, who declined to provide her name, crosses at the site of a new lighted crosswalk on Euclid Avenue on Thursday, Sept. 3, 2016. 

UA students Alyssa Belder and Sydney Schneider are suing the Arizona Board of Regents, the City of Tucson, Gerald Taylor and others for a hit and run that occurred at a crosswalk for the intersection of Fifth Street and Euclid Avenue around 5:55 p.m on Sept. 5, 2015.

Taylor, who at the time of his arrest was suspected for driving drunk, hit four pedestrians in the incident. Three individuals, including Schneider, were released after short stays in Banner-University Medical Center Tucson.

Belder remained in the hospital under critical care with life-threatening injuries. It was reported she spent 24 hours in a medically-induced coma and suffered head trauma and a broken pelvis.

Taylor, who reportedly had three children in the vehicle at the time of the collision, fled the scene and called the police from a WalMart parking lot where he was later taken into custody by Tucson police.

RELATED: UA drunk driving victims speak out

At the time of the incident, Belder and Schneider were both freshmen on campus and lived in the Coronado Residence Hall.

The lawsuit, filed Aug. 25, 2016, claims “the lights for the new lighted crosswalk were installed but not operating” for the new crosswalk used by Belder and Schneider that night.

Belder, Schneider and their friends had never used the crosswalk before, but Katherine Dufficy pressed the button to illuminate the lighted crosswalk and the group attempted to cross the street, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit says, Taylor was driving north on Euclid Avenue and “failed to operate the vehicle in a reasonable manner and did so carelessly, recklessly, and negligently operate the vehicle as to strike the plaintiffs while in the crosswalk, causing a collision and catastrophic injuries.”

The lawsuit claims the City of Tucson and the regents failed to adequately warn the public the new crosswalk was not functional, thereby causing unreasonable danger to drivers and pedestrians.

“The City of Tucson has a non-delegable duty to maintain its crosswalks in a reasonable safe condition,” the lawsuit claims.

Belder and Schneider are asking the court to, in a trial by jury, require the lawsuit's defendants to pay compensatory damages for inquiries, emotional distress, general damages, medical bills, legal fees and a list of other damages.

The board of regents received a summons Aug. 25, 2016 and issued an answer to the lawsuit to the court on Oct. 10, 2016.

RELATED: Suspect in hit-and-run collision near UA campus has been found

The regents claim they were not part of the crosswalk project and the crosswalk was “owned and controlled exclusively by the City of Tucson.”

They also dispute the nature and extent of Belder and Schneider’s inquiries as well as calls into question whether or not negligence on their part contributed to the incident.

The board also claims the damages in whole or in part were caused by the fault of Taylor.

The City of Tucson admitted in their response to the lawsuit filed Oct. 14, 2016, they funded and approved the crosswalk and “had the right to maintain some control over the project.”

They also admit the crosswalk was indeed not functional at the time of the incident. 

The Ashton Company was contracted to improve the crosswalk and had the overall responsibility for design and construction of the crosswalk according to the City of Tucson.

The City of Tucson will argue the negligence of Belder and Schneider contributed to the incident, dispute the extent of their inquiries and claim the damages were a result of their assumption of risk.

Taylor, through an attorney, submitted an answer to the lawsuit on Oct. 31, 2016, which stated he plans to argue a defense centered on the negligence of the two students and comparative fault.

The lawsuit is ongoing within the Arizona Superior Court in Pima County and is being presided over by Judge Catherine Woods.


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