Porter County, Indiana Commissioner John Evans, representing his mother-in-law’s estate, has filed suit against the State of Indiana and Town of Chesterton, alleging that an improperly placed traffic signal caused the October 2007 crash that resulted in the death of his mother-in-law, 76-year-old Virginia Wehner, from the personal injuries she sustained.
The suit was filed by Evans and Belinda Petroskey, co-administrators of Wehner’s estate, in Porter Circuit/Superior Court on November 18. Petroskey is the daughter of Wehner.
Chesterton Police say that Wehner was a front-seat passenger in the vehicle of Nancy Samuelson, both residents of Portage, Indiana. On October 23, Samuelson was southbound and attempted to turn left onto a road heading east. Witnesses said that she turned against a red left-turn light and was struck on the passenger’s side by a northbound pickup truck driven by Kouts, Indiana resident Jeffrey Everaert, who police say had the green light.
Wehner had to be extricated from the Oldsmobile Samuelson was driving. She received transport to Porter Valparaiso Hospital Campus, but later died there from the injuries she suffered in the crash.
As was reported by the Chesterton Tribune, the accident was not the first of its kind. On September 9, 2007, three people sustained personal injuries under the exact same circumstances: one southbound motorist attempted to turn left against a red light and was struck by a northbound motorist.
The investigating officer at the September 9 crash noted in his report that the traffic signals’ configuration at the intersection could be confusing because the left-turn signal for the southbound lanes was actually located east of the median and over the northbound left-turn lane. There are three other signals for southbound traffic, but each is located directly above its respective lane and west of the median.
At the time, CPD Chief George Nelson said that the CPD had discussed the light configuration with INDOT, but INDOT had no desire to alter it.
On October 24, INDOT’s LaPorte District announced an investigation. The findings were never released, but the turn signal was relocated to be directly above the left-turn lane.
Evans’ suit names the State of Indiana, INDOT, the Town of Chesterton, and the Chesterton Street Department as defendants in the suit.
The suit alleges negligence on the part of the defendants for failure to responsibly design, construct, install, and maintain the intersection and traffic control devices, failure to make the intersection reasonably safe for persons using ordinary care, failure to properly place the left-turn device, and for awareness of the dangerous condition for an extended period of time.