PORTLAND, Ore. — Michelle Colmus owns Fortune Tattoo on East Burnside. On May 3, 2019, she had just finished with a client when she heard a crash outside and ran to see what just happened.
"Devastating. Person was dying in the middle of the street. It was terrible," she said.
Elijah Coe was riding his motorcycle east on Burnside near Southeast 17th Avenue. Another car was pulling out of 17th Avenue, onto Burnside heading westbound. Coe swerved to miss the car and into oncoming traffic. He was hit and died a week later.
The family has filed a lawsuit on his behalf asking for $5.9 million in damages.
The lawsuit states the city of Portland "ignores Oregon law, and similar federal and local requirements, by allowing people to park vehicles so close to intersections that drivers and others using the streets can’t see approaching hazards or each other."
The lawsuit says cars were allowed to park along the south side of Burnside, blocking the driver of the car and Coe's view of each other.
The lawsuit says, "The city’s failure to provide adequate sight distance at intersections endangers people regardless of what mode of transportation they are using."
Driving around Portland, finding cars parked right up to the intersection is a common sight.
"Even in a car, having to pull out with your nose into oncoming traffic, on a heavily dense road like Burnside, you're obscured. You can't see it," Colmus said.
According to Oregon state law, (ORS 811.550), cars need to be parked at least 20 feet away from the crosswalk to give drivers enough room to see.
KGW tried to ask the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) why Portland allows drivers to park closer to intersections and crosswalks than what the state law says. They wouldn't comment because of the ongoing lawsuit.
The lawsuit wants the court to order the city to comply with state law and move every parking space back to at least 20 feet.
Business owners say that would eliminate much needed parking for their customers. But Colmus welcomes it.
"Just being able to have better clearance, being able to have cars identify that there's somebody even pulling out. That little buffer might help a lot and it might save another life," she said.
The driver that caused Coe to swerve was also named in the lawsuit because the suit states, "Defendants’ negligence and fault caused the death of Mr. Coe."
The lawyer for the family says he expects it to be another year or so before this lawsuit goes to trial.