The City of Raytown, a suburb of Kansas City, has been ordered to pay $42,000 to a family in connection with a violation of Missouri’s Sunshine Law. The case is related to a fatal auto accident that claimed the life of an area woman who was almost 70.
The family of the woman alleged that the Raytown government had a role in the deadly wreck, which happened at an intersection. Specifically, they say the view at the intersection was partially obstructed. The victim therefore had to pull out slightly in to the intersection, at which time she was hit by a vehicle entering the intersection from another direction.
In support of their wrongful death claim, the family asked the government to turn over certain records about the intersection and, more to the point, what the government knew regarding the intersection’s safety. The state’s Sunshine Law requires governments to turn over public records without a court order or other legal process in most cases, but Raytown still refused to turn over the records, citing the possibility of litigation.
In its recent rulings, a Missouri court largely rejected the City’s arguments and instead described the City’s conduct as an intentional violation of the Sunshine Law. The City disagrees and is appealing the ruling. This case illustrates a couple of important legal points. The first is that in some cases, such as in the case of an unsafe or poorly maintained intersection, local governments can be held liable following a car accident. On a related point, governments have special obligations to disclose information to the public, even if that information is unfavorable to the government.
Personal injury and wrongful death cases against a city or other government body are challenging for a lot of reasons. This is why many victims and their families choose to work through an experienced attorney.