Man who plunged off highway sues construction company for not barricading gap

David Yates Dec. 10, 2008, 8:30am

ORANGE – Believing he was using a highway exit ramp, Michael Reifsnider shot off Interstate 10 through a gap in a construction barricade and plunged into a pile of dirt and debris.

The incident two years ago left Reifsnider paralyzed from the waist down, and he has now filed suit against not only the company that was doing the construction work, but also against the makers of his vehicle.

He filed suit against W.W. Webber and Ford Motor Company on Nov. 21 in Orange County District Court.

Court documents show that sometime in the early morning of Nov. 25, 2006, Reifsnider was driving his Ford Escort on a stretch of I-10 outside of Beaumont under construction by Webber.

As Reifsnider was driving, an 18-wheeler attempted to pass him and veered into his lane. To avoid a collision, Reifsnider attempted to exit, court papers say.

"Unfortunately, what appeared to be an exit was actually an opening in the concrete barricades maintained by Webber," the suit says, "The curvature of the opening made it ... look like an interstate exit. However, just beyond the opening was a drop-off that led to a pile of dirt and debris."

In his suit, Reifsnider says he was not driving at a high rate of speed, but the impact still left him paralyzed. He states he was trapped in his vehicle unable to move for more than an hour before help arrived.

He faults Webber for not properly barricading and marking the opening.

He also blames Ford, claiming his car's seat belt "did not immediately catch," the suit says.

On top of exemplary and actual damages, the plaintiff is suing for past and future mental anguish, lost wages, medical expenses and impairment.

He is represented by attorney Jeff Seely of the Arnold & Itkin law firm.

The case has been assigned to Judge Pat Clark of the 128th Judicial District.

Case No. A080445-c

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