Relatives of a five-member Evanston, Wyo., family killed in a 1986 traffic accident in Provo Canyon have been granted their day in court.
Following a pre-trial conference, 4th District Judge Ray M. Harding set a Feb. 6, 1989, jury trial for the plaintiffs, who are suing the state of Utah and the Utah Department of Transportation over the death of family members in a traffic accident March 10, 1986. The trial was set several months away to give the Utah attorney general's office, which is changing attorneys in the case, time to prepare the state's defense.The plaintiffs are seeking more than $3 million in damages, including $1 million for suffering and mental anguish, $1 million for "loss of society, companionship, happiness and association" and $500,000 for "loss of assistance and services to family" of the deceased.
The suit, filed in July 1987, claims the accident resulted from reckless and negligent acts by the state and UDOT "in designing, constructing, maintaining and supervising" Provo Canyon Highway.
The accident, which occurred near the mouth of Provo Canyon, claimed the lives of Lee Barker, his wife, LaRhea, and three of their four children. They were killed when a truck coming up the canyon lost control and slammed into the family's car, which then flipped into the Provo River.
The truck driver was not named in the suit.
The suit was filed by Marsha Barker Green, a daughter of Lee and LaRhea Barker who was not with her family when the accident occurred; Gary Barker, representing the estates of the deceased; W.F. and Effie Barker, parents of Lee Barker; Lhomond and Barbara Jones, parents of LaRhea Barker; and Lee Barker's three brothers and sisters.
The lawsuit claims the state and UDOT had used "unfit and unsafe" materials in constructing U.S. 189, hadn't properly graded the highway or banked its curbs, hadn't erected adequate warning signs or guardrails and hadn't maintained "a road of sufficient width in view of the dangerous conditions at and in the vicinity of the accident."
In addition, the suit claims, the highway hadn't been built in accordance with good engineering practice to permit safe use of the highway.
The suit also faults the state for allowing the highway to be used by trucks.