The woman whose car plummeted from the seventh floor of a downtown Austin parking garage last month has sued the garage’s owner and its management, alleging they were negligent by not upgrading a cable barrier system that failed to keep the car from going over the edge of the building.
Cedar Park resident Christi Bowmer, 49, is asking for more than $1 million in damages from the company, GTT Parking LP, which owns the Littlefield Garage at East Sixth and Brazos streets. The company’s owner, Sheldon Kahn, is also being sued in Travis County state District Court.
“This case is about defendants putting profits over safety and knowingly exposing garage residents to foreseeable dangers,” the suit said.
Bowmer was seriously injured in the July 13 crash, in which her black BMW 328i hard-top convertible went over the side of the garage, smashed into the building opposite the narrow downtown alley, then went into a nosedive, colliding with another vehicle on the ground. According to a police report, Bowmer told an officer she might have mistakenly hit the accelerator instead of the brake while trying to park.
The crash was the second time in less than a year that a car has gone over the side of Littlefield Garage, which has a series of steel retention cables instead of a concrete retaining wall on the sides of each parking level. In September 2016, a sports utility vehicle went through the cables on the ninth floor and over the side of the garage, where the vehicle dangled from one of the cables while the driver climbed to safety. That incident made national headlines.
GTT Parking refused to comment Wednesday on Bowmer’s lawsuit, but on the day of the crash it issued a statement saying “we regret the unfortunate incident … and are thankful that no lives were lost.”
The parking garage’s spokesman, Jason Meeker, also said at the time that “after the previous incident, we engaged a structural engineer to review the situation, and repairs to the safety barriers were performed according to his recommendation.”
An American-Statesman investigation of the incidents found that GTT Parking didn’t meet the codes for cable barriers when the garage was built in 1979 and that the city’s code enforcement took unverified claims of repairs at face value after the first incident. City officials later determined those repairs hadn’t been conducted, according to city documents.
Bowmer on Wednesday told the Statesman that her medical bills were about $1 million and are expected to climb as she recovers.
The crash caused Bowmer to suffer two arterial hemorrhages in her head that nearly killed her, she said. She also broke her back, elbow, ankle, sternum and ribs, the suit said.
Bowmer said she hopes to recoup the cost of her medical bills, but also said she filed the suit in part to raise awareness about the dangers that could be lurking in parking garages.
“This should not have happened to me, should nor should it happen to anyone ever again,” Bowmer said. “It had already happened once (at the Littlefield Garage), so shame on them for not having the work done. They had their chance to fix it, and they didn’t do it. Now I’m going to live with these rods in my back for the rest of my life.”