Charles Maclean v. Roger Perry, et al.: A man who was so badly injured in a head-on collision in Montville that he was put into a medically induced coma has recovered $1.2 million in a settlement.
Charles Maclean, 63, was riding his Harley-Davidson motorcycle along Route 163 in Montville around 1 p.m. on July 26, 2010. Along this stretch of road is an auto service shop and tow truck business named Courville's Garage, which specializes in repairing big tractor-trailers.
As Maclean headed east on the curvy stretch of road, a garage mechanic named Roger Perry was trying to back into the lot, from Route 163, a state Department of Correction bus that's normally used to transport prisoners. The bus was in for repairs.
A lawyer for Maclean, Joseph M. Barnes, of The Reardon Law Firm in New London, said that the entry to the repair garage's lot is at an angle to the main road and Perry had trouble backing in. At one point during his maneuvering, he pulled back out into the roadway in a way in which the front of the bus was facing oncoming traffic.
Barnes said the stretch of road includes a blind curve. There are also tractor-trailers and shrubbery near the garage's entrance that make it difficult to see oncoming traffic.
Maclean came around the curve, but he did not have enough time to stop the motorcycle before hitting the Department of Correcton bus. Barnes said Maclean knew he had three options and needed to make a split-second decision; he could either swerve into oncoming traffic to his left, veer into the guardrail to his right, or strike the bus head on. Maclean decided to hit the bus head-on.
Barnes said there were 30 feet of skid marks in the road leading up to the point of impact. Maclean crashed into the bus, flew into the windshield and fell to the road.
Maclean was rushed to the hospital where it was determined that he had multiple broken bones. His worst injuries were a right hip fracture, right and left wrist fractures, multiple fractures to his right ankle, and broken ribs.
Maclean needed four surgeries and spent two weeks in the hospital. Right after the crash, Maclean was placed in a medically induced coma.
"The primary reason was because of the level of pain he was in," said Barnes. "He called in his kid. He had to say goodbye to his kid before they put him under because he wasn't sure if that was the last time he'd ever see him."
Maclean did emerge from the coma. Following the surgeries, which used plates and screws to repair the fractures, he was sent to a rehabilitation facility. There, he spent two months re-learning how to walk. The most disabling injury, Barnes said, was the crushed right ankle. Maclean's right side of his body took the brunt of the impact from the bus windshield.
Amazingly, Maclean, who was not wearing a helmet, did not injure his head.
Barnes noted that Maclean was not employed at the time of his accident. He was already on disability for a bad back. The crash did not aggravate his back, Barnes said.
Maclean was given a 29 percent permanent partial disability rating for his right lower leg, a 6 percent rating for his left wrist and 3 percent to his right wrist.
Barnes said Maclean has mostly completed his medical treatments. While an ankle fusion surgery is possible, so far Maclean has chosen to wear a walking boot to help stabilize his ankle.
Barnes filed a lawsuit on Maclean's behalf against mechanic Perry and Courville's Garage.
According to Barnes, not only did Perry pull the bus into the oncoming traffic on a blind curve, but he did so against his own company's policies. The garage policy stated that when large vehicles are being backed into Route 163, another worker must put on an orange reflective vest and direct traffic in the roadway.
Perry never called a co-worker to come out and assist him, said Barnes.
The defendants were represented by Tom Chapman, of the Law Offices of Charles G. Walker in Hartford. The firm handles cases for Travelers Insurance.
Barnes said that his opposing counsel contended that the motorcyle rider was going too fast around the curve, a point in the road where the speed limit is 35 mph. Chapman did not return calls seeking comment for this article.
"Despite any claim that Mr. Maclean was negligent in traveling too fast, it's pretty clear to me Courville's failed to follow their own policy and procedure in backing the vehicle in the lot when they knew the curve was blind," said Barnes.
The two sides were initially unable to come to a settlement agreement and spent 10 days selecting a jury for a possible trial. Even as jury selection continued, New London Superior Court Judge James Devine continued to work with the two sides to try to resolve the case.
Though much further apart initially, the parties eventually agreed to settle the case for $1.2 million.
"After two-and-a-half years of litigation and 10 days of jury selection, [Maclean] was incredibly happy with the result and glad to have at least the litigation completed," said Barnes. "He's going to have permanent injuries for the rest of his life but he's certainly happy with the result and it's a good result."•