NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) _ A jury on Monday awarded a total of $6.7 million to the estate of a man killed in a highway crash caused by a state worker and to another man who was injured. Connecticut officials say they will appeal the decision, which found the state liable for 30 percent of the damages.
The verdict was reached in New Haven Superior Court. The estate of Modesto Palafox Munoz, who died in the 2008 crash, received $4 million, while David Tremper, a 54-year-old Wallingford resident, received $2.7 million for a severe leg fracture, attorneys said.
A state Department of Transportation worker negligently parked his truck while removing debris from the highway, causing a chain-reaction collision, Tremper’s attorneys said. Another truck driver involved in the crash was held liable for 70 percent of the award.
“We respectfully disagree with the decision and firmly believe there was no fault or negligence on behalf of the Connecticut DOT,” said DOT spokesman Kevin Nursick. “We are optimistic this will become apparent pending potential appeal.”
A message was left Monday with an attorney for the second truck driver.
The DOT worker had noticed debris in the left and center lanes of the highway and positioned his truck straddling the shoulder and right lane, making the only unobstructed lane impassable, and turned on a left arrow board and lights, she said.
Munoz, a laborer from Tlaxcala, Mexico, was slowing down or stopped behind the DOT truck, with Tremper in another vehicle behind him. The second truck driver, approaching from behind, hit them both, attorneys said.
Munoz left behind a widow and two young daughters, said attorney Marisa Bellair, representing his estate. The state could have settled the case for a fraction of the jury award but made no offer to settle, said Tremper’s attorney, Timothy Pothin.
“We are very pleased that the jury carefully reviewed the evidence and held the state responsible for this totally preventable accident,” Pothin said.
But Ron Williams, attorney for the state, said Tremper’s award cost the state about half of his last demand. He argued the truck driver was fully at fault, saying he briefly took his eyes off the road and rear-ended Tremper’s vehicle 350 feet from where the DOT truck was parked.
Williams also said the DOT truck was properly positioned.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)