The parents of Emily Shane, the 13-year-old girl struck and killed by a driver on Pacific Coast Highway in April, on Monday filed monetary claims against the state and the county, alleging responsibility in their daughter’s death. Michel and Ellen Shane say the county and state neglected safety on the state highway. Also, the family says Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department officials failed to respond in a timely manner to phone calls about the erratic driving of Sina Khankhanian, whose vehicle struck Emily Shane.
No claim has been made against the city.
The claims are expected to be rejected, family attorney Terry Goldberg said. After this happens, a lawsuit will be filed. Goldberg said the suit would not specify an amount of money. A portion of any money won from the suit would go toward the Emily Shane Foundation, a nonprofit being formed by the family to help other children and support various causes.
The announcement was made Tuesday morning across the street from the scene of Emily’s death on Pacific Coast Highway near the intersection with Heathercliff Road.
“We don’t want anyone else to have to bury their child because there weren’t proper safety measures in place to make sure that they could be safe walking down a road – unfortunately in Malibu it’s a highway – and being able to get to the corner to cross the street to meet their parents,” Michel Shane said.
Goldberg said the county and state failed “to safeguard the pedestrians [on Pacific Coast Highway], knowing that this dangerous condition and knowing that many, many … pedestrians and bicyclists have died needlessly along Pacific Coast Highway.”
Khankhanian, 26, has been charged with murder. He has pleaded not guilty. Officials say he might have been trying to commit suicide when his vehicle struck Emily.
Sheriff’s Department officials confirmed in April that six emergency calls were made regarding Khankhanian’s erratic driving, with the first four taking place before Shane was struck. Sheriff’s Detective Mark Lillienfeld told The Malibu Times in April that he could not say whether the fatality could have been avoided.
“Like anywhere else in Southern California, that whole area [of Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu] could use more police presence,” Lillienfeld had said. “We respond pretty quickly when citizens provide us with calls like that. Most often, we are able to get there in a timely manner.”
Goldberg said on Tuesday that Shane’s death could have been prevented had the response to the calls been quicker.
“Everyone knows that you call 9-1-1 when you have a life-saving emergency,” Goldberg said. “And the Sheriff’s [Department] delayed over 20 minutes, and unfortunately their delay resulted in Emily’s death because they did not apprehend this erratic driver.”
Caltrans spokesperson Patrick Chandler said the agency does not comment on ongoing litigation. Sheriff’s Department spokesperson Steve Whitmore did not immediately respond to a call for comment on Tuesday.
The press conference came the day after a passionate City Council meeting during which the Shanes requested a portion of Heathercliff Road be named Emily Shane Way. They submitted a petition with more than 800 signatures. A much smaller petition from Heathercliff businesses and residents asked that the name not be changed because of concern about a constant reminder of a traumatic incident and due to the complications that come with changing an address. The council voted for a compromise to keep the Heathercliff name, but for an Emily Shane Way sign to appear below or next to the Heathercliff sign.
Council member Lou La Monte, whose daughter played on a sports team with Emily, said he wanted to support the name change, but found it difficult to do when the affected businesses and residents did not want it to happen.
“My problem is that lovely girl, the last thing that I know that she would want to be is in the middle of a controversy in this neighborhood,” La Monte said.
Public safety was a theme throughout the meeting. The council also discussed the possibility of installing red camera lights on the highway. The issue will go to the Public Safety Commission for review. Also, Julie Eamer of A Safer Pacific Coast Highway (ASPCH) said the city should pursue a grant with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) for safer bus stops. City officials said they would look into it. La Monte said a city parcel tax could be useful to fund various public safety measures.
“That might be the way where we can start to get exactly what we need and pay for our own things without worrying about grants and what Caltrans people have to say and what MTA people have to say, and let us have a little bit of our own self-determination,” La Monte said.
Also at the meeting, the council voted to install guardrails next to Las Flores Creek Park on Las Flores Canyon Road. It will cost $15,000. The park has been the site of six vehicle collisions this year, including one this past weekend, City Manager Jim Thorsen said.