The estate of a 42-year-old Colchester man killed when his pickup truck was rear-ended by a driver high on heroin and cocaine has settled a wrongful death lawsuit for $1.1 million.
Kevin Dutra was driving northbound on Interstate 91 in Windsor Locks in October 2016 when a Volkswagen Tiguan driven by Katell Gunning struck the rear of his vehicle and caused him to lose control, according to a lawsuit filed in April 2017 in Hartford Superior Court. The impact caused Dutra’s Ford F-350 to hit a guardrail and flip over, according to John Houlihan Jr., attorney for Dutra’s estate. Dutra died instantly.
Gunning fled the scene, but was apprehended a short time later at a nearby Walmart by East Windsor police, police said at the time.
Houlihan, a partner with Hartford-based RisCassi & Davis, said Gunning admitted to police that she took cocaine and heroin before the crash. Gunning, 34, died of a drug overdose on the eve of trial, Houlihan said.
Houlihan sued Gunning’s estate and Massachusetts-based nonprofit Hands Together and its executive director, Douglas Campbell. Campbell, an acquaintance of Gunning, had let her drive the company-owned Tiquan, Houlihan said. Gunning’s license was suspended at the time of the crash.
“We sued Campbell because he entrusted this car to someone whose behavior was extremely unpredictable, and her substance abuse should have been clear to him.” Houlihan said Monday.
Settlement negotiations took about 11 months, Houlihan said.
“Their [Campbell and Hands Together] first offer was substantially below $1 million,” Houlihan said. “We tried to make it clear that we were looking for the maximum policy, which was $1 million.”
Houlihan settled with Commerce Insurance Co./MAPFRE, the carrier for Hands Together, for $1 million on March 4. The estate will get the funds Tuesday, Houlihan said. In addition, the estate also settled with the insurance carrier for Warren Kummer, Gunning’s father, for his maximum $100,000 policy.
That was paid out by National General Insurance. Houlihan said he went after Kummer’s auto liability coverage because Gunning was entitled to liability coverage under her father’s auto liability coverage since she was living at home at the time.
While the Dutra family is pleased with the settlement, Houilhan said, “His father is so destroyed by what happened. He is just looking for a way to move ahead. He lost his only child.” Dutra was living with his father, Arthur Dutra, at the time of the crash.
Campbell and Hands Together were represented by R.J. Weber of Wallingford. Weber did not respond to a request for comment Monday.
Kummer was represented by Claudia Baio of Howard, Kohn, Sprague & FitzGerald in Hartford. Baio also did not respond to a request for comment.