A Bridgeport Superior Court jury has delivered a $25 million verdict against the State of Connecticut arising out of an accident involving a state trooper whose cruiser crashed into a pedestrian, severing the man's leg.
The jury found Trooper Darren Pavlik 65 percent responsible and the pedestrian, Melvin Gordils, 35 percent responsible, in the May 2010 accident, which occurred on the Route 8 and Route 25 connector in Bridgeport. That results in a $16.25 million net verdict for the plaintiffthe highest verdict ever delivered against the state, according to Stratton Faxon, the law firm that represented Gordils.
The plaintffs lawyers said Pavlik was traveling at over 100 mph without his lights or sirens on when he struck Gordils, a 48-year-old Bridgeport restaurant owner, who was trying to cross the road after his truck ran out of gas. According to the plaintiffs attorneys, Pavlik did not pull over. Instead, the attorneys said, he left the scene and drove around Bridgeport while all video evidence of the collision was erased from his car camera.
Pavlik, an 18-year veteran, eventually returned to the scene to find Gordils laying in the breakdown lane of southbound 8/25. According to the attorneys, one of Gordils' legs was completely severed, his pelvis was crushed and his arms severely injured.
According to the lawyers, Pavlik, rather than administer first aid, began interrogating the crticially injured Gordils. Regular citizens later found the severed leg some 170 feet from the scene in a residential driveway.
"Regarding damages, Melvin's medical expenses and lost wages are over $8 million," attorney Joel T. Faxon, of Stratton Faxon, said in a prepared statement. "He is the most catastrophically and traumatically injured client we have ever represented."
The incident was investigated by Pavlik's in-house supervisor. However, the trooper was not disciplined. "Superior officers protecting bad cops like this are very dangerous. While Melvin survived, he is left with tremendous disabilities," said Michael A. Stratton, who along with Faxon tried the case.
The state was represented by Stratford attorney James Coyne, who during the trial denied that the trooper was going more than 70 mph. He also said at the time of the crash, Gordils had a blood-alcohol level of 0.24, three times the legal limit for driving. "He was drunk and he chose to put himself in harm's way," Coyne said during opening arguments. "He was in control of his own destiny."
The jury deliberated for almost two days before handing down a verdict.
"Pavlik should have been fired but instead the state swept his clear misconduct under the rug," Faxon said. "It wasn't until the case saw the inside of a courtroom that the truth was revealed. We commend the jury in this case for holding Trooper Pavlik responsible for his recklessness."