Families of those killed in 2019 Standing Rock Road washout appeal case

2019 Standing Rock Road washout
2019 Standing Rock Road washout(KFYR-TV)
Published: Jun. 23, 2022 at 9:52 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - The families of those injured and killed when a Standing Rock Reservation road washed away have appealed their lawsuit against tribal and federal officials.

Around 5 in the morning on July 9, 2019, four people commuting to or from work in separate vehicles plunged into a chasm that opened up with overnight rain on BIA Road 3, locally known as Kenel road. Trudy Peterson, 60, and Jim VanderWal, 65, both of Mobridge, SD, died and two other people suffered serious permanent injuries.

Their families filed a lawsuit for wrongful death seeking $10 million in damages. They say the washout could have been avoided if BIA had adhered to road maintenance standards and replaced a culvert that had been degrading for more than five years.

In March, U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland dismissed the suit, noting that the ruling was in accord with the law, but it was “extremely unfair.” He said the BIA and Standing Rock Sioux Tribe had legal discretion to determine how to perform road maintenance.

The families are asking the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse Hovland’s order. They say the district court erred when it applied two prior cases to come to its conclusion and argue that the governmental agents involved had a duty to warn of risks they knew of.

BIA attorneys have 30 days to respond to the appeal before oral arguments can take place.

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