Judge orders crash victim's family to pay court costs after suing Caltrans

Alexandria Drake killed in crash on SR-67

SAN DIEGO - The family of a woman killed in a crash on state Route 67 learned how big their bill will be for challenging Caltrans over the safety of the road.

Almost four years later, memories of the wreckage and the loss of her daughter, Alexandria Drake, still haunt Pam McKeirnan.

On March 29, 2009, 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 four-week-old son Jayden, who was in the backseat, survived the crash.

"I think it's disgusting," said McKeirnan.

On Friday, the Drake family's attorney once again squared off against Caltrans attorneys in court.

In June, jurors sided with Caltrans in a civil suit that accused the agency of knowing SR-67 was dangerous but didn't make it safer.

Months later, Caltrans looked to recover some $74,000 in court costs.

A judge Friday cut that down to about $38,000 -- an amount McKeirnan can't afford.

"We don't have the money. We may have to lose our house," said McKeirnan.

She calls it a penalty she doesn't understand.

"We didn't bring this lawsuit as a frivolous thing. We brought it because Highway 67 is one of the most dangerous roads in California," said McKeirnan.

In a statement, Caltrans said:

"… it is imperative for the state to seek such reimbursements on behalf of state taxpayers. We do this as a matter of routine in cases such as this in which the state has successfully obtained a defense verdict."

Brett Schreiber, the Drake family's attorney, said it's also routine for Caltrans to waive the court costs if appeals are dropped. Schreiber said Caltrans declined the offer.

"Caltrans is trying to send a message to the next family of the next victims to not mess with us," said Schreiber.

"It's beyond wrong. It is a government being a bully," said McKeirnan "... I still don't have a daughter and [state Route] 67 is still dangerous."

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