Attorneys for a Wallingford man killed when his motorcycle was struck by the operator of a garbage truck that crossed into oncoming traffic have settled the case for $3 million.
Raymond Smith Sr., 49, died almost instantly in July 2016 when struck by the vehicle owned by Plainville-based CWPM and driven by Robert Choinski. The dash cam footage from the garbage truck, attorneys said, showed Choinski was not paying attention to the road at the time of the accident.
Smith’s fiancee, Allison Vandermaelen, was on the motorcycle with Smith. Vandermaelen suffered a traumatic brain injury and underwent 22 surgeries to her left leg. She settled her case with Choinski and his insurance carrier for $13.6 million in April.
The latest case was brought on behalf of Smith’s 30-year-old son, Raymond Jr.
Attorneys for Choinski and the Firemen Fund Insurance Co., his carrier, told Smith Jr. that their final offer was $3 million.
“The defense told my client it’s either $3 million or try it in court,” said Keith Trantolo, Smith’s attorney and the owner/managing partner of Trantolo & Trantolo. “My client accepted it as he did not want to go through the grueling trial process.” The money will be disbursed this month, Trantolo said.
Trantolo was seeking $10.5 million.
The settlement was finalized Oct. 23 and the case was mediated Oct. 2 in front of Michael Riley of Pullman & Comley.
The garbage truck’s dash cam video recorded Choinski’s actions and the oncoming motorcycle in the seconds before impact, Trantolo said.
“The dash cam gave us insight into what was going on physically inside the cab of the truck as to the defendant’s operations of the truck. He just was not looking where he should have been,” Trantolo said Friday. “Smith is going the speed limit and the defendant took a left and there was no opportunity for the motorcyclist to take any defensive maneuver to avoid the collision.”
Choinski, 34, pleaded guilty to negligent homicide with a commercial vehicle. He received a six-month suspended prison sentence followed by 18 months’ probation, and had his license suspended for 30 days.
Trantolo said his biggest challenge in the case was “trying to determine what a human life is worth and having the insurance company, who will argue over it, sign off on it.”
Smith Jr. posted his reaction to the settlement on the law firm’s Facebook page.
“The respect that the law firm showed myself, along with my family, was incredibly professional and made a very difficult situation a little easier to bear,” wrote Smith, who now lives in Florida.
Choinski and Firemen Fund were represented by Thomas Houlihan Jr. of Hartford’s Boyle, Shaughnessy & Campo. Houlihan did not respond to a request for comment on Friday.
Trantolo was assisted on the case by colleagues Mark Kochanowicz and Ron Etemi.
Trantolo said he was “looking forward to trying the case with Mark and Ron, but I am very happy for the family and for Ray Smith Jr. that they are happy.”