A Pearl River, Louisiana, resident who was injured in the December 29 pileup on Interstate 10 in New Orleans has filed a lawsuit against the city of New Orleans and other defendants, alleging a combination of negligent acts caused the crash.
According to WWL TV New Orleans, the injured plaintiff asserts the deadly 40-vehicle crash could have been prevented had city and state authorities warned drivers about the known hazards on that stretch of interstate that morning, as he claims they were supposed to do.
Many who were involved in the crash and other witnesses believe it was the result of a sudden loss of visibility caused by a combination of smoke and fog. In addition to heavy fog, smoke from a fire in an adjacent marsh that has been smoldering for months wafted across the interstate, reducing visibility to zero and near-zero for a lot of motorists. A lack of functioning street lights along the interstate where the pileup occurred may have exacerbated the conditions.
Two men died in the crash. Sixty-two others were injured, some seriously.
“I was just driving down the road, minding my own business and I seen the fog and I slowed down and before I knew it, I was at a dead stop. Just that quick,” the plaintiff told WWL TV.
In addition to the city of New Orleans, the lawsuit names as defendants the state of Louisiana, Allstate insurance, and Pine Island Limited Partnership, which owns the marsh that has been burning for several months.
“It was common knowledge and there had been in lawsuits before that the smoke was creating a hazardous condition,” a lawyer for the plaintiff told WWL TV. “It was making people ill and more important it was obstructing the view of traffic on the interstate.”
The state failed to provide proper lighting and warn motorists of the poor visibility on that part of the interstate, the lawsuit contends. Likewise, the city failed to take appropriate traffic-control measures, such as reducing the speed limit, the lawsuit charges, and both the city and the marsh owner neglected to extinguish the months-old marsh fire that nearby residents complain has created hazardous driving conditions for months and months.
Two other serious crashes have happened on the same part of I-10 near the Michoud exit since December’s multi-vehicle pileup, one of them fatal. On January 4, poor visibility prompted authorities to close that section of the highway after a three-vehicle crash. On January 19, a man died after he lost control of his minivan near the Michoud exit, struck a concrete barrier, and flipped into a canal.
Several local residents have told WWL TV they are well aware of the smoggy conditions on that part of I-10 and are afraid to drive it.