City of Seattle Settles Lawsuit for $6.5 Million for the Death of 22-Year-Old Motorcyclist

Mar 30, 2023

The City of Seattle recently settled a lawsuit with the family of Jackson Reavis, a 22-year-old who was struck and killed while riding his motorcycle through a notoriously dangerous intersection in Northeast Seattle. The $6.5 million settlement was reached between the City and Reavis’ family, who were represented by attorneys at Schroeter Goldmark & Bender.

According to the suit, on a Monday evening in June 2019, Reavis was riding his motorcycle through the intersection of 35th Ave NE and NE 75th St in Seattle’s Wedgwood neighborhood. Reavis had the right-of-way and was proceeding through the intersection when the driver of a pickup truck fatally hit him while turning left on a solid green light against oncoming traffic.

Attorneys for the Reavis family say that the City of Seattle had prior knowledge that the intersection posed safety threats and had plans and funding for installing left-turn arrow signals that could have saved Reavis’ life but did not take action to improve the intersection’s safety until after the fatal collision.

“Jackson’s death was unquestionably preventable,” said Craig Sims, the Schroeter Goldmark & Bender attorney leading the case against the City. “The tragic facts of this case show that it took his death to prompt the City to make a simple, low-cost change to an intersection it knew was unsafe. We hope this outcome sends a clear message that the City must take responsibility for its inaction and will commit to never again ignoring clear, simple opportunities to make Seattle roadways safer for our community.”

According to documents obtained during the SGB attorneys’ investigation, two years before this fatal accident, the City of Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) had funding allotted and available to install left turn signals at 35th Ave NE – and had design plans drawn for the signals to be added to the existing infrastructure at the intersection. However, the City abandoned those plans despite repeated concerns voiced by community members who called the intersection “dangerous,” a “hazard” and an “accident waiting to happen,” attorneys say.

Then, within a month of Reavis’ death, the City began work to install the left-turn arrow signals on existing structures at the intersection consistent with its 2017 plans, which could have saved the young man’s life, the suit alleges.

According to Sims, “We all want safe roads in our communities and we should expect those responsible for keeping them safe will do their job. And if they don’t, they must be held accountable.”

“There can be little doubt the City was aware of the danger of the intersection and the need to add left-turn arrow signals to improve safety for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians alike. Had the protected left-turn signals installed after Jackson’s death been in place beforehand, this crash would not have happened,” Sims added.

At the time of his death, Reavis had recently returned home to Seattle after graduating from the University of Redlands with a bachelor’s degree in Design, Digital Art and Marketing. He was an accomplished athlete and artist, poised to launch himself into his adult life.

“Jackson was a fiercely loyal and compassionate brother, friend and son who was just at the precipice of beginning the prime of his life,” said Nicole Van Borkulo, Reavis’ mother. “For reasons we may never know, SDOT did not install the left-turn signals until it was too late for Jackson. We hope that by sharing our experience, we can help prevent this type of tragic incident from occurring again in our community.”