Morris mother of deceased passenger suing Grundy County for misplaced stop sign

MORRIS – Susan Mallory alleges a poorly-placed stop sign contributed to a car accident that claimed her daughter’s life.

Mallory, of Morris, filed a lawsuit last week against local authorities in charge of placing and maintaining the traffic signage on Nelson Road in Grundy County, where the accident occurred last summer that killed her daughter, Lauren Mallory Elder, 28.

Mallory claims the sign’s low visibility is what caused driver Joshua Layne, 36, of Morris to run through the stop sign July 13, 2013, when he was traveling east on Nelson.

After Layne failed to stop at the sign, he continued through the intersection and another car driving north on Lisbon Road collided with Layne’s vehicle.

Mallory’s daughter, Elder, was a passenger in Layne’s vehicle and was killed during the collision. Layne died almost a year later as a result of injuries from the collision. No charges have been filed in the case.

The plaintiff claims the stop sign was placed at the improper height, angle and distance from the road. She also alleges the sign was too small – in violation of the Illinois Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices – and it was placed on a wooden telephone pole which also displayed several advertisements above and below the traffic sign.

“There were advertising signs directly next to the stop sign – on the same pole. That should never happen,” Mallory’s lawyer Joseph Mueller said Tuesday.

“It was very difficult to see, and we have reason to believe other drivers have missed it too,” Mueller continued.

Defendants named in the case are Grundy County, Grundy County Highway Department, Saratoga Township, Grundy County Engineer Craig Cassem and Saratoga Road Commissioner Homer Ellis.

Grundy County State’s Attorney Jason Helland, who is representing all county defendants, said his office would not comment about the pending litigation.

Also named in the lawsuit is John E. Johnson, the driver of the vehicle that struck Layne and Elder. Although Johnson did not run any stop sign, Mueller claims Johnson did not heed a warning sign asking drivers to reduce speed at the intersection.

“We believe there is some negligence on the part of the other driver, that’s why he is also named as a defendant,” Mueller said.

As the special administrator for Elder’s estate, Mallory is asking for more than $50,000 in damages.

Layne, the driver of the vehicle Elder was in, died in June as a result of injuries received in a traffic accident, according to his obituary.

Mueller said there is a possibility Layne could be named in the case as well.

“I think he will probably be brought in as an additional defendant,” Mueller said.