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Jury awards $15.7 million to victims of I-95 crash

By Karen Florin

Publication: theday.com

Published April 26. 2013 4:00PM   Updated April 26. 2013 11:39PM

A jury in Hartford Superior Court awarded $15.7 million Friday to the surviving family members and injury victims of a deadly crash on Interstate 95 in November 2007 that left three people dead and several injured.

The jury found that Northeast Carriers, the owner of the tanker truck that jumped the median near the Interstate 395 interchange in East Lyme, and the estate of tanker driver Peter Derry, were negligent and reckless. The tanker rammed into a southbound tractor-trailer, causing a pileup. Derry, 51, of Webster, Mass., died along with two others.

"I'm just glad it's going to start to bring some closure to these families," Matthew Shafner, attorney for one of the plaintiffs, said. "It's been a long time."

According to Shafner, the jury awarded $5,575,000 to James Clark, the 27-year-old driver of the southbound tractor-trailer, who suffered extensive injuries, including foot, leg and rib fractures, a back injury and head trauma. Clark was represented by New London attorney Shelley L. Graves.

The jury awarded $2,218,000 to Samira Clough of Mystic, a teacher who suffered a cracked vertebrae and a foot injury and who was forced into early retirement. She had been represented by attorney Dina Fisher of New Haven. The jury awarded $1,069,500 to her friend and fellow teacher, Lynn Mariani, who was carpooling with Clough to a teachers' workshop. Mariani was represented by Groton attorney Peter Bartinik Sr., who said during opening statements that Mariani's physical injuries were not severe, but she suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.

The jury awarded $3,673,100 to the estate of Lu-Ann Dugas of East Lyme, which was represented by Shafner. Dugas, who had been returning from a medical appointment, was crushed by the roof of her car, according to testimony, and died at the scene.

The jury awarded $3,210,000 to the estate of Fred Held of Milford, who was returning from one of the area's casinos and died in his Honda Accord. He was represented by attorney Carl Secola of New Haven.

The jury also awarded $50,000 to South Bay Trucking, the owners of the tractor-trailer that Clark was driving.

The attorneys for Northeast Carriers and Derry had admitted that Derry caused the accident but had tried to attribute some of the blame to another truck driver, James Holloway, who witnesses said may have been racing with Derry before the crash.

"The jury found there was zero responsibility of that other truck," Shafner said.

The insurance company for Northeast Carriers had set aside $2 million, the company's coverage limit, prior to the trial, but the plaintiffs' lawyers brought the case to a jury because the amount did not cover the costs of the victims' injuries and losses, including medical bills and lost wages.

The lawyers are expected to attempt to recover some of the damages from Northeast's parent company, the Brooklyn, Conn.-based Saveway Petroleum, according to Shafner.

k.florin@theday.com

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