AUSTIN (KXAN) — The lawsuit between a woman who drove off the seventh story of a parking garage in 2017 and the garage’s owner and its manager has been settled, nearly two years after the crash.
The case was set to go to a jury trial on Monday.
“Getting out of bed is a trial on a daily basis,” Christi Bowmer explained. “I’m in pain every day and I do not want this to happen to anyone else.”
The $1 million lawsuit was filed in August of 2017, the month after Bowmer drove her BMW convertible off the seventh floor of the Littlefield parking garage off East Sixth Street and Brazos Street and landed onto another vehicle below. In the suit, Bowmer said that after her foot slipped from the brake to the gas pedal, her vehicle sailed through the cable barriers along the garage’s open-air edges and down to the alley below.
“Falling and then hitting the ground, I knew my back was broken and I knew I was bleeding profusely. I knew I was bleeding out,” Bowmer said.
“When they pulled me out of the car, there was a man there and so I said, ‘Could you call my family?’ I wanted to say goodbye,” she continued, crying, as she recalled the experience that she says changed her life. “I was able to tell my husband and my daughter goodbye.”
Bowmer suffered serious injuries in the accident, including multiple lacerations, spine and ankle fractures and trauma, in addition to others described in the suit. The injuries required at least three surgeries and Bowmer now lives with rods in her back.
The lawsuit claimed that Bowmer could have lost her life because GTT Parking, L.P., Premier Parking of Tennessee, LLC, and Weitzman Management Corporation did not maintain the garage’s barriers, even though a similar accident occurred less than a year earlier.
“You would think just like a car has a seatbelt, you would have some matter of safety or some semblance of safety,” added Bowmer. “I want people to be aware of that and understand that if there’s something like that, where there’s no barricade or anything like that, to be extremely cautious.”
Bowmer’s attorney, Sean Breen, said the cable barrier system in the garage at the time was “something in name only.”
“Bowmer’s car was going nine miles per hour. That’s not very fast. The cables should have been able to hold a car just under 20 miles per hour — twice as fast as she was travelling. That’s a massive failure,” he said.
Breen told KXAN that when Bowmer’s vehicle hit the cables, four of the five pulled completely out of the walls.
“She wasn’t responsible for what happened, the injuries that happened. We felt like we proved that. But more importantly, she wanted to make sure that not just this garage, but other garages are safe in the future,” Breen said. “This case presented a classic example of how you can make a difference for the victim and to keep other people from being victims.”
Following the July 2017 crash, Breen says there is now a system in place at the garage that meets the code and regulations. He added that “competent barriers” with significantly more cables that are closer together have been installed.
“They’ve done it right this time. The cables are anchored in concrete so there’s new concrete to hold the cables,” Breen said.
The amount for which the lawsuit was settled has not been disclosed.
The following is a response from Jose Roig, the Assistant Director of the Austin Code Department, when we reached out requesting information about any changes to enforcement at the city level since the crash:
“The Austin Code Department continues to follow established internal operating procedures that identify potential safety concerns. We also work closely with the Development Services Department and other City entities to collaborate and resolve hazards that impact our community. This process was in place during the July 2017 parking garage incident, and the Department continues to work towards improvement and collaboration with other city departments that handle the permitting process. The currently adopted codes have provisions for the proper installation and repairs of parking garage cable systems. The property owner has the responsibility for the inspection and maintenance of these systems to ensure that they are in good working condition, and to obtain any necessary permits if repairs or replacement is needed.”
KXAN reached out to the attorney representing the companies in this lawsuit, but did not receive a response to our request for comment.