Central Florida was shocked by the recent news of the tragic wrongful death of Kason Bailey, a 17-year old Winter Park High School football player. Kason lived in an apartment complex along busy Aloma Avenue, just east of State Road 436 near Goldenrod. Apparently, Kason had been a store across Aloma from his apartment complex and was trying to make it home. Instead of crossing in a painted crosswalk, Kason crossed elsewhere and was hit by two cars and killed.
Many of the people who live along this residential stretch of Aloma have reported that they have been complaining for years about how difficult it is to cross Aloma safely. Several years ago, government traffic authorities installed several painted crosswalks in the area. However, no traffic control devices were installed to control the cars that regularly travel 45 mph or faster on Aloma. Drivers never have — and never will — stop their cars on such a busy road, just because someone is in a painted crosswalk.
As a result, neighbors say they often have to wait 15 to 20 minutes to cross Aloma — trying to use the crosswalk. Naturally, people resort to crossing wherever they can, whenever they can. Obviously, this is a recipe for disaster — as the family of Kason Bailey has found out.
My natural instinct when I hear a story like this is to say to myself, “What about Orange County and the traffic authorities? The residents complained and told them that the crosswalks weren’t good enough and that the area remained dangerous. Shouldn’t the traffic authorities bear some responsibility for making this area safer — particularly when the government knows about the danger?”
Unfortunately, Florida state law provides immunity to governments for planning level functions. Planning level functions have been held to be operations such as deciding where to place traffic lights or stop signs, or deciding what kind of arrows or lines to draw on the streets.
In cases like this one, governments almost always try to hide behind the cloak of immunity. Many times it takes an experienced personal injury lawyer to file the proper legal motions in order to defeat claims of immunity. If immunity can be defeated, then people like those living along Aloma Avenue get to tell their stories, and juries get to decide if the government should have done more.
What do you think?