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Failed Barrier Survivor Suing for $1M

Friday, August 25, 2017

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A woman injured when her car fell from the seventh story of a Texas parking garage last month is suing the operators of the garage over what she says were insufficient barrier structures.

Christi Bowmer filed suit Wednesday (Aug. 23) in a Texas state court, seeking $1 million in damages from the owners and managers of the Littlefield Garage, in downtown Austin.

On July 13, Bowmer was parked on the seventh level of the garage when she says her foot slipped off the brake and hit the gas pedal. Her car was reportedly propelled through the steel-cable barriers protecting the garage's open-air edges and fell to the ground in the neighboring alley, landing on an SUV parked nearby.

The cables are reportedly 40 years old, and Bowmer alleges in her suit that garage owner GTT Parking LP and management firm Weitzman Management Corporation knew the barrier system was unsafe, especially in light of a similar incident less than a year ago.

“I went through it like paper,” Bowmer told KXAN. “I went straight through those cables like they were nothing.”

The Lawsuit

According to KXAN, Bowmer’s suit alleges that the defendants knew the garage was not safe, ignoring laws that require proper barriers to protect drivers. The cables in place were described as “dangerous, dilapidated and in need of serious upgrade and repair at various locations within the garage” when the accident took place.

Bowmer herself suffered two arterial hemorrhages, which nearly killed her, she told the Statesman. She also broke her back, ankle, elbow, sternum and ribs.

Bowmer stated that her medical bills already amounted to $1 million, and that she expected the number only to rise as she recovered. She detailed that she not only seeks to recoup the cost of her medical bills, but also wants to raise awareness of these kinds of issues with parking garages.

“This should not have happened to me, nor should it happen to anyone ever again,” Bowmer told the Statesman.

System Redesign

Currently, the owners of the Littlefield garage are looking are redesigning the entire cable system, but earlier this month it came to light that the company only had until the end of August to get the garage up to code. As a result, the GTT Parking will need to file for an extension in order to make the necessary adjustments.

While GTT Parking refused to comment on the lawsuit when prompted by Austin American-Statesman, on the day of the accident the company issued a statement that it regretted the unfortunate event, and was grateful that no lives were lost.

Jason Meeker, spokesman for the parking garage, added at the same time that “after the previous incident, we engaged a structural engineer to review the situation, and repairs to the safety barriers were performed according to his recommendation.”

Earlier Accident

In September of 2016, another driver faced a similar fate in the open-air edged garage. Then, an SUV parked on the ninth level of the building also went through the cables. Unlike Bowmer’s BMW, this vehicle dangled from a cable while the driver managed to climb to safety. The incident made national headlines at the time, noted the Statesman.

An investigation conducted by the Statesman discovered that GTT Parking did not meet the codes for cable barriers when the garage was originally built in 1979. After the first incident, city officials took GTT's claims that it had made repairs at face value. It was later determined that those repairs had not been completed.


Tagged categories: Accidents; Health and safety; Maintenance + Renovation; North America; Parking Garages

Comment from Jesse Melton, (8/25/2017, 1:58 PM)

From an engineering perspective, what bothers me the most about this is where else the cable system and its components were used. Two failures in two years after, presumably, no failures in almost 40 years, may indicate an exposure driven material degradation. The same cabling and components are probably holding up utility poles, traffic signals and pedestrian bridges all over the southwest.

Comment from Tom Schwerdt, (8/28/2017, 11:08 AM)

Could be material degradation, could be lack of maintenance, could be failure to properly repair prior damage - if they didn't repair where someone actually drove off the garage before, I seriously doubt they repaired any lesser damage - and finally, could be coincidence. I did note that the barriers did not even meet code when they were new.

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