Dangerous Crosswalk has Lingering Effects, Prompts Litigation
Story by David Alexander

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Dangerous Crosswalk has Lingering Effects, Prompts Litigation

On May 21, 2015 at about 9:30 p.m., Judy Peters, 72-year-old Santa Clara resident, tried to cross the intersection of Kiely Blvd. and Malabar Ave.

She never made it.

The crosswalk was unlit, and, as Peters crossed, she was struck by Toyota Prius. An ambulance rushed Peters to Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, 751 S. Bascom Ave. in San Jose. Surgeons performed three surgeries to repair a broken leg, cracked skull, torn spleen and internal bleeding. After being on life support for several days, doctors saw no improvement.

“Her eyes were staring forward. There was nothing there,” said Caycee Peters, Judy Peters daughter. “They kept telling us she has doll’s eyes. She is brain-dead.”

Four days after Peters was hit, doctors removed her life support.

But that wasn’t the only time the intersection was a hazard.  Later that year, on Dec. 8, Peter Smee, an employee of the Mini Cooper Dealership on Stevens Creek Blvd. and Kiely Blvd., was using the crosswalk when an SUV, going roughly 45 mph, hit him. The collision threw him 80 feet and knocked him out of his shoes, lacerating his carotid artery.  

Smee’s friend and colleague Jennifer Flick said the dealership does not have onsite parking, forcing the employees to park offsite near the intersection. Flick and many others regularly complained that the intersection of the five-lane boulevard was dangerous. They compare crossing the street to the 1980s video game “Frogger.”

“Pete was a rule-follower. He used that crosswalk four times a day,” Flick said. “He is never going to be what he was. He can't sit too long he can't stand too long. His whole life completely changed in that one second.”

Paramedics also took Smee to Valley Medical Center where he underwent several surgeries to repair the damage from the collision. The crash pulverized his pelvis and left him unable to speak for eight months. Flick said when doctors showed him an X-Ray of how much metal they used to repair the damage, he vomited.

He still walks with a cane and uses a brace.

Concerned for others, Flick wrote Dennis Ng, a traffic engineer with the Santa Clara Public Works department, in Jan. 2016. Ng wrote back saying the “City considers the safety of pedestrians as one of our primary goals,” adding that he had assigned one of his staff to “identify possible improvements.” He told Flick that someone from his office would contact her with any findings.

Months fell off the calendar, and Flick heard nothing.

“I get the impression they are not going to do anything, and they hope I will just shut up and go away,” Flick said. “There have been two incidents in six months. I shouldn’t have to write a letter.”

Peters said she was “appalled” when she learned that Mini Cooper dealership employees had complained about the crosswalk before, saying “there is no excuse for that.”  

In April 2016, Smee and Peters, along with her brother Sean, filed civil suits against the City seeking damages for economic and emotional distress, claiming the crosswalk is a “dangerous condition.”

“How many more people have to lose their lives for them to pay attention to it?” Peters said. “Why have they ignored it? Why don’t they feel it is necessary?”

Since accident reports are not available online, Peters said, “the City may be hiding something.”

Jennifer Yamaguma, community relation’s manager for the City, wrote in an email that because of the pending litigation, City Attorney Brian Doyle “has refrained from speaking about specific issues.”

For Peters, the distress caused by what she believes to be negligence on the part of the City has rippled throughout her life. Before she was able to bury her mother, the landlady at the fourplex where she lived with her mother at 171 Warren Dr. notified her and her cousins, both college students who lived with Judy, that they needed to move out.

“It was like a punch in the face–no compassion,” she said. “Why would you kick a family when they’re down?”

The two still can’t go near the area where their mother was hit, and every time they say “See ‘Ya” to each other, one of their mother’s signature expressions, they can’t help but think of her. It hurts.