A Richland restaurant owner died crossing a street. His family says the city is to blame

A Google Maps view of the intersections of Van Giesen Street and Highway 240, Birch Avenue and the Urban Green Belt Trail.
A Google Maps view of the intersections of Van Giesen Street and Highway 240, Birch Avenue and the Urban Green Belt Trail.

Thousands of cars and countless joggers and bicyclists pass the spot daily where a Richland restaurateur was hit and killed by a car two years ago.

His family says that piece of the Urban Green Belt Trail is dangerous and the city is to blame for his death.

Wai Mon "Raymond" Chin's family is seeking undisclosed damages from the city, claiming there is a lack of signs and a crosswalk at the spot where the popular path crosses Van Giesen Street, just off Highway 240.

Chin, 83, and his wife, Shirley, had owned and operated Ray's Golden Lion in the Richland Uptown Shopping Center since the early 1960s.

Testimony began Thursday in the wrongful death trial that is expected to last two weeks in Benton County Superior Court.

Brenda Nelson, the driver who hit Chin with her Honda Accord on Feb. 12, 2016, also was named in the lawsuit but settled with the family before the trial.

Chin was thought to have been walking north on the Urban Green Belt Trail near his home toward Van Giesen at the time. It was a dark and rainy evening.

It's unclear if he was at the pathway's unmarked crossing or if he was farther along the street before being struck.

The path connects with Van Giesen at a 40- to 50-degree angle. One reconstruction suggested Chin may have been halfway between the green belt and Birch Avenue, about a half block to the east.

Ray Chin.JPG
Ray Chin and his wife, Shirley, have owned and operated Ray's Golden Lion in the Richland Uptown Shopping Center since the early 1960s.

Chin was taken to Kadlec Regional Medical Center in Richland with severe head and pelvic injuries. He was placed in the intensive care unit.

When he got to the hospital, doctors believed he was somewhere between comatose and unconscious.

They tried to relieve the pressure on his brain, and he was on a ventilator and heavily sedated with painkillers.

He died two days later on Valentine's Day after his family decided to withdraw life support.

According to medical testimony, Chin opened his eyes after he was taken off the sedatives, which is considered a voluntary response.

That suggested Chin may have been conscious of pain at the time, though it was impossible to say how long it lasted, a doctor testified.

In their wrongful death complaint, filed in September 2016, Chin's family alleges the city of Richland and Nelson both breached their duty of care to Chin and caused him pain and suffering.

Chin's estate previously filed a claim for damages against the city of Richland, which was rejected.

The jury of six women and eight men also heard from a pair of traffic experts that Van Giesen Street is the only unsignaled crossing along the miles-long length of the green belt.

Richard Haygood, a California-based traffic and civil engineer said the path joins Highway 240 at every other crossing, providing users the protection of traffic lights, crosswalks and button-controlled crossing lights.

Thursday's proceedings were marred by unusual situations involving two of the 14 jurors.

One juror frantically asked the county clerk's office to be released after she received messages from her part-time employer complaining that the office would have to close if she couldn't make it in to work and that it would lose money because of her.

Judge Sam Swanberg questioned the juror and agreed to a minor schedule change to accommodate her schedule, calling her a diligent juror who did not belong in the "hot seat."

At one point, Swanberg mused about summoning the employer to court to explain the situation in person.

In the second case, a recalcitrant juror's hostile posture and apparent lack of engagement drew the attention of the judge and both sets of attorneys.

Swanberg discussed the situation with attorneys during the morning and afternoon breaks, and at lunch.

The Kennewick School District employee had said she did not want to be a juror during selection because she needed to prepare her students for an upcoming performance.

Swanberg said he was reluctant to give her the release she wanted, but told attorneys he would consider making her an alternate if they felt she was becoming a distraction to the other jurors — all of whom paid active attention to testimony throughout the day.

Wendy Culverwell: 509-582-1514