A Redmond couple is suing the owners of Redmond Town Center, alleging safety violations at a children’s play area contributed to the death of their 2-year-old daughter, who ran into the street and was killed by a motorist in July.
The parents of a Redmond toddler who was hit and killed by a car in early July filed a lawsuit Friday against the owners of Redmond Town Center, alleging negligence and failure to provide a safe environment.
Also named in the wrongful-death suit, which does not specify a dollar amount for damages, are the designers of a children’s play area at the open-air mall and the 25-year-old driver who struck the girl. His girlfriend and her parents also are included.
Two-year-old Susanna “Susie” Dreher was killed July 1 after she ran into Northeast 74th Street, presumably to play in a fountain outside a hotel that’s located across from the Sensory Garden, a children’s play area built on a plaza, according to the suit filed on behalf of her parents, Jonathan and Veronica Dreher.
The suit claims overgrown bushes and a poorly placed sign warning drivers of children playing in the area contributed to the fatal accident, which was witnessed by Susie’s 4-year-old sister and the girls’ nanny.
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The Sensory Garden, which was designed for preschoolers, violates safety specifications for play areas, given its proximity to the street and the lack of a gate or fence to fully enclose it, the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit also alleges that the driver of a Volvo sedan who ran over Susie is a habitual drug user who borrowed his girlfriend’s parents’ car even though he doesn’t have a valid driver’s license. He was on his way to pick up his girlfriend from work when Susie was killed, the lawsuit says.
According to a toxicology report made available by the family’s attorney, Karen Koehler, the driver had opiates and meth in his system at the time of the fatal collision.
Dan Donohoe, a spokesman for King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg, said Friday Redmond police recently referred the case to his office for a charging decision, but it is still being reviewed.
The Seattle Times is not naming the driver, a Kenmore man, because he has not been criminally charged.
David Mordekhov, an attorney representing the owners of Redmond Town Center, was unavailable for comment Friday.
According to the lawsuit, the nanny was helping the older girl when Susie left the Sensory Garden through the 8-foot wide entrance, crossed the plaza and ran into the street, where she was run over by the Volvo. Passers-by helped lift the vehicle off the girl, and a doctor, who was a guest at the hotel, began CPR, but Susie died at the scene, it says.
Koehler said overgrown bushes have since been pruned and another sign has been installed to warn drivers children are playing in the area. But the site is still unsafe, she said, noting that there’s heavy traffic near the play area, given its proximity to the hotel, a parking garage and a movie theater.
Susie’s parents are grief-stricken but decided to file the lawsuit so quickly after Susie’s death because of the safety concerns, Koehler said.
“They want them to do something and take care of this now,” she said of her clients.
Redmond Town Center is co-owned by New York-based DRA Advisors LLC and Seattle’s JSH Properties, according to the lawsuit. The Sensory Garden was designed by Dillon Works, a design and fabrication company based in Snohomish County, it says.