Caltrans wants woman to pay legal fees

Pamela McKiernan sued Caltrans over SR-67 safety

SAN DIEGO -  

A local woman is facing a massive legal bill after losing a lawsuit filed against Caltrans over safety issues.

On March 29, 2009, Alexandria Drake was driving westbound on state Route 67 near Quail Rock, just east of Archie Moore Road, when the driver of a gold Jaguar hit her head-on.

Drake's newborn son, Jayden, was in the backseat at the time of the crash, but he survived.

Pamela McKiernan, Drake's mother, was in the car ahead of her daughter and watched as the crash unfolded.

"I don't think there will ever be a healing," McKiernan said. "She's dead because he hit me. If he had rolled me, she wouldn't be dead."

Three years after the crash, McKiernan is still tormented with grief for her grandson.

"He is my daughter's legacy. That's all she wanted," said McKiernan.

McKiernan is fighting to make sure her daughter didn't die in vain. She filed suit against Caltrans as part of her mission to make SR-67 safer.

SR-67 has a fatality rate twice the state average.

"People are continuing to speed and die and nothing is being done," McKiernan said.

A jury eventually sided with Caltrans, and now the state wants McKiernan to pay its legal fees -- $70,000.

"What more can I give? You took my firstborn and now you want everything else," said McKiernan.

Caltrans called the demand "standard procedure," and added, "The state spent over $250,000 defending the case … recoup a portion of the money … on behalf of the taxpayers."

McKiernan said if she has to pay the $70,000, she will lose her home. She said she's already lost what matters most.

The family is now appealing the jury's decision.

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