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St. Louis County to pay $100,000 in wrongful death case

St. Louis County will pay $100,000 to the family of a girl killed in a 2012 car accident in Eveleth, following a court-mediated settlement.

The county was named as one of several defendants in a wrongful death lawsuit filed in May by the family of Hannah Wilson who say an improperly placed road construction sign contributed to her death.

County Attorney Mark Rubin has asked the St. Louis County Board to approve the $100,000 payment at the board’s meeting today in Floodwood.

Rubin called the girl’s death a “tragedy” but said he could not comment on details of the case. In his letter asking for board approval, Rubin wrote that he believes “this is a reasonable amount given the facts and circumstances of the action” and that the settlement avoids the cost of further litigation.

Wilson, 16, of Virginia, was driving at the intersection of Industrial Park Drive and U.S. Highway 53 in Eveleth on the afternoon of Sept. 19, 2012, when she was struck by an SUV driven by then 38-year-old Jeffrey J. Reed of Hibbing.

The Minnesota State Patrol reported that Wilson was driving a 1997 Plymouth Breeze west when crossing the four-lane highway from a frontage road about 3:30 p.m. The car was hit broadside by Reed’s northbound 2002 Mercury Mountaineer.

Wilson, then a junior at Eveleth-Gilbert High School, was airlifted to Essentia Health-St. Mary’s Medical Center in Duluth, where she later succumbed to her injuries. Reed suffered minor injuries in the crash. The State Patrol reported that Wilson was wearing a seat belt at the time of the crash.  

Wilson’s family named Reed, St. Louis County, Benchmark Engineering Inc. of Mountain Iron and Jola & Sopp Excavating Inc. of Hibbing as defendants in the civil suit, saying a poorly designed road construction area at the site contributed to the accident and her death.

The suit, filed in state court in Virginia, claims that the two companies involved were negligent because of an improperly placed road construction sign that blocked motorists’ view of oncoming traffic.

The suit goes on to allege that St. Louis County “ignored warnings of a dangerously placed sign” at the accident location and thus is negligent.

The settlement, if approved by the County Board, will end the county’s role in the lawsuit. Joe Leoni, attorney for the family, said the county’s action today will trigger a “confidential resolution” with other defendants that will settle the entire lawsuit.

The suit was filed by Steve Wilson, the victim’s father, on behalf of the family.