Lawsuit in fatal crash settles for over $1M
BENNINGTON -- A lawsuit that stemmed from a 2010 crash in which three members of the same family were killed reached a $1.5 million settlement in February.
According to documents filed in Vermont Superior Court Bennington Civil Unit, on Jan. 6, 2010, a sport utility vehicle being driven by Robin C. Martinez, 42, collided with a tractor trailer. Martinez and three of his passengers, Juana Jimenez, 40, Jasmil Jimenez, 13, and Cesar Jimenez, 10, were killed.
Jennifer Jimenez, who was 15 at the time, survived with minor injuries.
All were from Bennington. The crash happened in Pittstown, N.Y., on Route 7, while the family was heading east into Bennington. New York State Police said Martinez went into the westbound land and collided with a tractor trailer being driven by John H. Miller. Police said driver fatigue on Martinez's part may have been a factor.
Martinez was Juana Jimenez's boyfriend.
The lawsuit lists Jennifer Jimenez as a plaintiff, as well as her brother, Jerinson Toribio for the estates of Juana Jimenez, Jasmil Jimenez, and Cesar Jimenez. It lists defendants as Miller, and the estate of Martinez. Toribio was not involved in the crash.
It was filed in 2011 by the Bennington law firm Barr, Sternberg, Moss, Lawrence, and Silver.
According to court documents, the lion's share of the claim, $1,255,000, will be settled by Zurich Insurance Co., which represents Miller. The rest, $272,829, will come from the Martinez estate.
Attorney David Silver said his late colleague, Rolf Sternberg, took on the case but when he passed away it came to Silver. "He believed in it when many people doubted him," said Silver.
"We believed strongly, and we were supported by our expert witnesses, that this collision was caused by both Mr. Martinez and Mr. Miller the truck driver both acting negligently," Silver wrote in a statement. He said most of the fault falls to Martinez. "However, this collision would not have happened if the professionally trained truck driver defendant did what he should have done according to his training."
Silver wrote that drivers are trained to use their brakes, honk their horns, and turn right in situations like the one on Jan. 6 four years ago. He said Miller turned left and there was strong evidence in the plaintiff's view that Miller was distracted.
Mark Werle, of the law firm Ryan, Smith, and Carbine, which has offices in Rutland and Glens Falls, N.Y., and represented Miller said the New York State Police investigation was thorough and showed that Martinez entered Miller's lane, putting Martinez at fault for the crash.
"There really was nothing Mr. Miller could have done," said Werle.
According to police report, while Miller did turn left he also applied his brakes. Police said the two vehicles met in the middle of the road as they tried to leave the westbound lane. Vehicle defects and road conditions were ruled out as causes of the crash in the report, which also said the primary cause was Martinez "driving left of pavement markings" in violation of New York State traffic law.
Werle said a nondisclosure agreement prevents him from talking about the reasoning behind the settlement.
"I think everyone is really glad to see the case ended," he said.
Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr.
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