Woman Settles For $225,000 After ATV Accident
Because of her injuries, Hellyar brought a lawsuit against James Crowley, KMR Holding Company and Marc and Kimberly Reynolds for negligence and recklessness. Attorney Jack Stuart Taylor, of Wilson & Taylor in New Haven, represented the defendants on behalf of their insurance company. Taylor declined comment for this article.
KMR Holding Company and the Reynolds maintained a combined auto and premises liability policy through Massachusetts Home Insurance Company. The Reynolds claimed that party guest Crowley was never granted permission to operate the ATV in the first place. Therefore, the insurance carrier argued that since Crowley was a non-permissive user of the ATV in insurance policy terms, the Reynolds were not responsible for Crowley's negligence.
Crowley, meanwhile, had no insurance policy that could be targeted by the plaintiff's lawyer. Sgrignari further said Crowley was unresponsive to the lawsuit and ended up getting served a subpoena so Sgrignari could take his deposition. "He was the key to establishing the property owners' negligence," said Sgrignari.
Crowley ultimately testified at a deposition that he believed the ATV to be available for recreational use by anyone attending the party. "I think it became pretty clear from the standpoint of the permissiveness of the use," said Sgrignari. "Certainly [Crowley] was under the impression that he was using the ATV, as were other people at the party, and he believed it to be there for recreational use at the party."
To further their claim against the Reynolds, Sgrignari also asserted independent claims of negligence and recklessness against them for failing to secure the vehicle and otherwise prevent those attending the party from using the ATV.
"If their position was that the vehicle was not to be used during the party, it's a fairly simple process to lock up the keys and they chose not to," said Sgrignari. "As a result of that, they allowed the people there access to a potentially dangerous instrumentality."
Sgrignari said that after he took depositions from all of the defendants, he engaged in settlement discussions with a claim adjuster from Massachusetts Home Insurance Company. The two sides agreed to settle the case for $225,000 rather than proceed to trial.
Sgrignari said the Massachusetts Home Insurance Company initially planned to pursue what is called an "assignment of claims" case against Crowley to recoup its losses, as he was the negligent driver of the ATV. In the end, however, the insurance carrier thought better of it and covered the settlement on its own.