A Massachusetts-based energy and industrial services company is going to pay $8 million to settle a case with a Virginia woman who was left with a permanent brain injury after their truck struck her car in 2014. This settlement, according to Virginia Lawyers Weekly and reported by the Daily Press, is the fourth-largest settlement reached in 2017 in the state (https://www.dailypress.com/news/newport-news/dp-nws-evg-crash-settlement-20171113-story.html).
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In 2013, Clean Harbors Environmental Services Inc. of Massachusetts was contracted to clean out the tanks at a facility in York County, Virginia. The company sent an eight-man team to town to handle the work, which was expected to take months. Among the workers was Cary James Donatto, who drank alcohol in his hotel room on August 27, 2014 before getting into the company pickup truck, a Ford F-250 Supercab, and heading for a bar in the Town of Newport News. At about 8:30 pm, Donatto crashed into a sedan being driven by Linda D. Gervin at a red light, which pushed her sedan into another car at the same light. Gervin, who was a licensed practical nurse, suffered soft tissue injuries, post-traumatic stress disorder and a mild traumatic brain injury as a result.
Donatto was charged with reckless driving and DUI in connection with the accident. At the time of the crash, his blood alcohol content was .15, close to twice the legal limit. He pled guilty and was sentenced to just five days in jail, with 175 days suspended, and had a restricted license for a year. The reckless driving charge was dropped as part of a plea deal.
In July of 2016, Gervin, who can no longer work as a nurse due to her injury, filed her suit against Clean Harbors Environmental Services Inc. and Donatto. According to that lawsuit, the team on the cleanup job had one supervisor, one foreman and six workers. They were living at an extended-stay hotel close to the job site. During their stay, they had two company vehicles, the Ford truck and a Chevrolet Tahoe SUV. The SUV was kept under lock and key by the supervisor, but the workers had open access to the Ford truck.
Gervin’s lawsuit argued that the company knew it needed to control vehicle access as two of its employees were killed in a crash just a year before when another employee drove drunk and caused an accident. After that crash, the company informed its supervisors that work vehicles needed better control. Instead of doing that, the lawsuit stated, the supervisor gave the Ford truck keys to a hotel clerk to hand out.
The company did admit negligence at the start of the trial, and the deal was reached on the fifth day in the Newport News U.S. District Court, just a day before the jury would begin deliberating. The amount of the settlement was not disclosed in the court papers available, but Gervin told the Daily Press it was $8 million dollars. According to her attorney, she has lost the ability to earn a living and carry out normal daily activities as a result of the accident, and her settlement reflects these losses.
Drunk driving can change a person’s life forever. Speak to an experienced auto attorney if you’ve been the victim of a person who was driving while intoxicated.
A special thanks to our friends and contributors at Richard Banta, PC, for their insight on this particular matter.