Honolulu City Council members are expected to approve a $1.2 million settlement this week for a 2008 motorcycle crash on Kaluanui Road in Hawaii Kai that left a man paralyzed.

The Council is planning to take up the matter at Wednesday’s meeting at Honolulu Hale. The settlement was passed by the Executive Matters and Legal Affairs Committee last month.

The accident was one of many that have occurred on the windy road from Mariner’s Ridge, according to media reports. An attorney representing the crash victim said while the city has filled in potholes, the design of the road hasn’t been fixed.

Bend in road near the third turn on Kaluanui Road. Mariner's Ridge. Hawaii Kai. 8 dec 2015. photograph Cory Lum/Civil Beat
There have been many crashes on Kaluanui Road over the years, and some people blame a poor road design. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

James Masterson was riding his motorcycle on the road on Jan. 26, 2008, around 9 a.m. to attend a meeting in Kaneohe when he hit a pothole that sent him flying off his bike. He hit the road, curb, a tree and finally a lava rock wall.

In a 2008 letter to the City Council, Masterson’s former roommate, Makani Christensen, described driving down the hill 30 minutes later and seeing a mass of emergency responders surrounding his injured roommate.

“A bright red blood trail about 10 feet long flowed from my roommate’s lungs onto the sidewalk,” he wrote, describing the scene as “gruesome.”

According to a lawsuit filed Dec. 22, 2009, Masterson had permanently paralyzed legs and partially disabled arms, and suffered excruciating pain.

The complaint sought more than $3.5 million to cover the cost of Masterson’s medical expenses and other damages.

Steven Geshell, Masterson’s attorney, wrote in an email that the city filled nearly three dozen potholes after the wreck, but added, “The reverse banking of the curve remains uncorrected the last time I was there on 27 November 2015.”

Geshell said to his knowledge, the settlement offer hasn’t been accepted by his clients, who are Masterson’s mother, Peggy Ruleford, and the Masterson bankruptcy trustee in Arizona, Brian Mullen.

Geshell declined to discuss the case further, except to note that Masterson remains “in pain and disabled daily.”

City spokesman Jesse Broder Van Dyke said in an email that Kaluanui Road was most recently repaved in January 2012. He declined to comment on the lawsuit, but noted that the city disputes the allegations.

There’s a long history of crashes on the road. Christensen said in a phone interview Tuesday that while it is smoother today, the engineering is still problematic.

“The camber goes right yet the road turns left, so it actually pushes people off the road,” he said. “It creates a hazardous situation.”

Mariner’s Ridge residents have previously opposed city proposals to improve the road.

Natalie Iwasa, a member of the Hawaii Kai Neighborhood Board, said prior to Masterson’s crash the Mariner’s Ridge Homeowners’ Association voted down a plan to change the road’s configuration out of concern that it would cause more problems in the long run. She believes speeding is a bigger problem on the road than design.

Masterson did not immediately reply to an email seeking comment. Christensen says he now lives in Arizona and has never regained the use of his legs.

“It just changed his whole life,” Christensen said.

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