New Haven Settles Police Car Crash Lawsuit For $10 Million
What started out as a routine domestic violence call five years ago has led to a $10 million settlement against the City of New Haven for a former police officer who was left paralyzed in a crash.
It was almost 11:30 at night on Sept. 9, 2008 when the call came in to New Haven police about a domestic dispute.
That sort of call was business as usual for Sgt. Dario Aponte and Officer Diane Gonzalez, who, in separate vehicles, were closest to the incident. Their two cruisers collided in a downtown intersection.
In the blink of an eye, the call became anything but ordinary. The large amount of the settlement, among the highest against the city in its history, was reached because of the large price tag for medical bills the surviving officer has incurred. So far, Gonzalez has rung up $2.5 million in treatment for her injuries which require around the clock care. She is expected to incur millions more.
Aponte died from his injuries. Gonzalez barely survived. The police investigation that followed did not access blame on either officer. But in the legal analysis that was conducted by the plaintiff's legal team, Gonzalez's lawyers said Aponte was found to have been more at fault in the crash.
Gonzalez, 52, is now a quadriplegic, in a semi-conscious state. Gonzalez and her family, as conservators, sued Aponte's estate and the city of New Haven. Rather than go to trial, Gonzalez agreed to a settlement agreement with the defendants.
"All of the parties pushed more towards settlement than going to a full blown trial, which is why we agreed to mediate the case," said attorney Shari Murphy, of Branford, who represented Gonzalez and her family.
"This was a case we targeted for settlement as soon as it was brought," said Thomas Gerarde, of Howd & Ludorf in Hartford, who represented Aponte's estate and the city of New Haven in the lawsuit.
According to Murphy, the crash occurred at the intersection of Chapel Street and East Street. She said Gonzalez was traveling east on Chapel Street while Aponte was traveling north on East Street. As Gonzalez neared the intersection with East Street, she turned while Aponte sped through the red light and crashed into her cruiser.
Aponte,43, had served with the New Haven Police Department for 17 years and had been promoted to sergeant not long before the crash. He left behind his wife and two children.