Motorcyclist sues pickup driver over crash

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BENNINGTON — An Ohio man is suing the driver of a pickup that crashed into the motorcycle he and his wife were riding on Route 9 in Woodford three years ago.

Steven Vanni filed suit in July in Bennington Superior Court Civil Division against Rikesh R. Patel on his behalf and as executor of his late wife's estate. The suit claims in part that her crash injuries contributed to Joanne Vanni's death.

Joanne Vanni was a passenger on a Harley-Davidson motorcycle driven by her husband on the afternoon of July 29, 2016, when police said the bike was struck by a Honda Ridgeline pickup driven by Patel.

He was listed in a 2016 Vermont State Police report on the accident as 22 years old and a Bennington resident.

While Joanne Vanni did not die in the immediate aftermath of the accident, the suit — filed by Bernard Boudreau of Winburn Law Offices of Bennington — contains a wrongful death count.

The suit contends that the crash and Joanne Vanni's injuries caused a delay of her chemotherapy treatment, "causing new metasitic lesions to develop and she died as a result of same."

Joanne Vanni died in Ohio on March 20, 2018, at age 52, according to her obituary.

According to the suit, Patel, while driving on Route 9, "did so negligently and carelessly operate, maintain and/or control his motor vehicle so as to cause his vehicle to be driven into the motorcycle being operated by plaintiff Seven Vanni causing serious injury to Steven Vanni and Joanne Vanni ... ."

VSP Trooper Paul Sokolowski Jr. said his investigation of the crash determined that the Patel vehicle was following the westbound motorcycle in light rain on Route 9, when Vanni, then 51, began to turn into the lot of the Woodford General Store parking lot.

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Sokolowski said he learned that Patel "looked down to turn on his headlights" and his truck collided with the motorcycle, causing it to go out of control and crash. The trooper said the passenger, Joanne Vanni, was thrown from the bike. She was airlifted to Albany (New York) Medical Center with head injuries, while her husband was transported there via ambulance with suspected internal injuries, according to the police report.

According to the suit, Steven Vanni "suffered orthopaedic injuries and was rendered sick, sore, lame and otherwise disabled," and has and will continue to "suffer great pain and anguish of body and mind."

He also has undergone and will in the future undergo "painful and extensive medical care and treatment" and incur medical bills related to his injuries, the complaint states. Vanni also claims past and future loss of earnings and earnings capacity.

The suit claims medical bills incurred on behalf of Joanne Vanni, and Steven Vanni claims he was deprived of the services and consortium of his wife.

Joanne Vanni sustained a concussion and loss of consciousness, scalp laceration and other orthopaedic injuries, the suit contends, and during her lifetime underwent extensive medical care and treatment as a result of her injuries.

The suit contains a wrongful death count. It claims that "as a direct and proximate result of the negligence of defendant Rikesh R. Patel, Joanne Vanni and the injuries sustained in the incident complained of, her chemotherapy treatment was delayed causing new metastic lesions to develop and she died as a result of same."

In a response to the suit, Patel denied the suit claims and "demands that the complaint against him be dismissed and that he be awarded his costs and such relief as the court deems just," according to a filing by Patel's attorney, Thomas Simon, of McCormick, Fitzpatrick, Kasper & Burchard, of Burlington.

Listing affirmative defenses challenging the suit, Simon cites "comparative negligence," "lack of proximate cause," and "failure to mitigate damages," and reserves the right to add additional affirmative defenses.

Neither attorney in the suit could be reached for additional comment.

Jim Therrien writes for New England Newspapers in Southern Vermont, including the Bennington Banner, Brattleboro Reformer and Manchester Journal. Twitter: @BB_therrien


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