The estate of a 66-year-old grandmother who died 28 hours after the car she was driving was hit head-on by a speeding motorist has received $3.8 million.
Attorney Michael Jainchill reached the settlement in the wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of Janet Pulver’s two grown children on June 1, two weeks after an all-day mediation with representative of two insurance carriers. Jainchill is a partner with Hartford’s RisCassi & Davis.
Pulver, formerly an Avon, Connecticut, resident, was one of four drivers involved in the accident that police said was caused solely by Bennett Dunbar. Pulver, who succumbed to her blunt traumatic injuries one day after the Oct. 20, 2016 accident, was struck head-on by Dunbar’s Volvo V70, which had crossed the double yellow line on Farmington Avenue. Police said witnesses estimated that Dunbar was traveling upward of double the 40 miles per hour speed limit. A 117-page position statement was filed in Hartford Superior Court on May 9.
In addition to speeding, police said Dunbar also had marijuana in his blood stream. Dunbar expressed remorse for his actions at his November 2017 sentencing, where he pleaded guilty to felony misconduct with a motor vehicle. He was sentenced to five years in prison, suspended after he serves three years. Dunbar must also meet certain conditions after he is released, including receiving drug treatment.
Jainchill, who represented the family in both the criminal proceedings and the civil case, told the Connecticut Law Tribune on Wednesday liability on the part of Dunbar was clear but his biggest challenge was developing the damages.
Jainchill, whose initial offer of compromise was $5.5 million while the defense first offered $1 million, said Pulver had not worked since she began to raise her two children. Her later years, Jainchill said, was spent taking care of her two young grandchildren.
“In this case, you do not have the economic aspect in that [Pulver] was not working, but she enjoyed doing all of the things that were involved in taking care of her kids and grandkids,” Jainchill said. “It allowed her children to work and not to have pay for high child care costs. She took care of her grandkids every single day. There was an economic benefit to the family for what she was doing.”
Mediator Elaine Gordon, who is a retired judge, “did a great job in understanding the case,” Jainchill said, adding, “She was very thorough and she spent a lot of time with the material we provided her.” That material, according to the position statement, included Pulver taking care of her grandchildren on a full-time basis and her passion for hobbies and interests like bowling, her local Women’s Club, and painting.
Joseph Musco, of Musco & Iassogna in New Haven, represented Dunbar through Chubb Insurance Co. and Traveler’s insurance Co. Musco did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday. In court filings, the defense admitted Dunbar crossed the yellow line but denied negligence and carelessness in so doing.
Pulver’s family received the $3.8 million settlement Tuesday, Jainchill said. Chubb, which was Dunbar’s umbrella policy, paid out $3.43 million. Traveler’s, which was Dunbar’s underlying auto policy, paid out about $467,000.
Jainchill said Pulver’s family “is very close-knit. It was a great sense of relief once it was over. There is satisfaction that the system worked both from the criminal law side and the civil law side.”