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Press Release

Federal Judge Dismisses Negligence Case Brought Against the United States

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Washington

Spokane– Joseph H. Harrington, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, announced that, on August 16, 2017, District Judge Rosanna Malouf Peterson dismissed a lawsuit brought by a logging truck driver injured in a motor vehicle accident on the Yakama Indian Reservation.

According to information disclosed during the court proceedings, on January 27, 2014, Plaintiff Jose Vera was driving a logging truck on the Signal Peak Road on the Yakama Indian Reservation when he failed to negotiate a curve and his logging truck went off the road and down an embankment. A passenger in the logging truck was killed in the accident. Vera alleged that the United States, through the Bureau of Indian Affairs, improperly designed the road, failed to maintain the road, and failed to properly erect warning signs or guardrails.

The United States asked the Court to dismiss the case, arguing that the United States had no duty to maintain a road that was located in the Closed Area of the Yakama Indian Reservation. Court records showed that the area where the accident occurred had been closed by the Yakama Nation since at least the early 1990’s and that since the mid-1990’s, the Yakama Nation had taken over complete control of the roads in the Closed Area of the Reservation.

Judge Peterson found that despite the fact that the land on which the accident occurred is owned by the Federal Government and held in trust for the Yakama Nation, control of the Signal Peak Road had been turned over to the Yakama Nation. Judge Peterson concluded “ownership of the land under the circumstances present here does not amount to control or any responsibility for the relevant roadway, or give rise to the duties that Plaintiff alleges.”

This case was defended by Rudy J. Verschoor, Assistant United States Attorney in the Civil Division of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Washington.

Updated August 17, 2017

Press Release Number: CV-2:17-030054-RMP