Arlene Kopka, Administratrix of the Estate of Edward Gorecki v. Paula Bauer: The estate of a man who was hit by a car and killed while out jogging in Farmington has recovered $975,000 as part of a settlement reached following mediation.
Edward Gorecki, 55, was out running early on the morning of Nov. 4, 2009. Gorecki, according to his estate’s lawyer, Joseph P. McDonald, of McDonald Law Associates in New Britain, was an avid runner, participating in 50 races in the previous several years.
At about 7:45 a.m., he was jogging on Brickyard Road in Farmington when a 2008 Ford Expedition driven by Paula Bauer, 44, of Farmington, made a right turn onto Brickyard from Route 6. Bauer struck Gorecki, whom she said she never saw. The runner was knocked out of his sneakers and crumpled to the street unresponsive, according to McDonald.
He was taken by Life Star helicopter to Hartford Hospital and pronounced dead at 9:12 a.m. An autopsy revealed injuries to the head and spine as well as internal bleeding.
According to the police report, Gorecki was straddling the white line marking the east side of the roadway when Bauer hit him. She told police she heard a loud "thud" and saw Gorecki "flying through the air." Bauer got out of her SUV and saw Gorecki lying face down near her front right tire. Bauer’s two young children remained inside the vehicle. She then called 911.
A witness saw the impact and estimated Bauer was traveling at about 35 mph, which was the posted speed limit.
After the accident, according to the police report, several residents contacted the police about Gorecki’s jogging habits. They said they often had to drive around him to avoid hitting him, as he would run three or four feet into the travel lane.
Following an investigation, the North Central Municipal Accident Reconstruction Squad advised Farmington police that the accident was solely Gorecki’s fault. No charges were ever brought against Bauer.
McDonald, however, argued differently, especially after he reviewed Bauer’s cell phone records. McDonald said that while driving, Bauer made five or six short calls in a row trying to reach her husband. Each time, she got only his voice mail.
Bauer claims she last used the phone at a red light prior to turning onto Brickyard Road. McDonald, however, said there was only a 38-second gap between her last call and her 911 call.
McDonald said his expert witness — an accident reconstructionist — determined that it would have been almost impossible for Bauer to have used the phone at the red light, drive to the accident scene, strike Gorecki, get out of her SUV and call 911, all in 38 seconds. "You’d have to drive over 80 in a 35 mph zone," McDonald said. "So what was it? Were you on the phone [just before the accident] or were you driving 80 in a 35?"
McDonald said police photographs also showed oatmeal next to the driver’s seat in the SUV. Bauer claimed that she had heated the oatmeal and planned to pull over and eat it after dropping her two children off at school, which is 25 minutes or more from their home. "It’s hard to believe she would drive 30 minutes and then eat the oatmeal," said McDonald.
McDonald also said there was a nail file next to her seat. "It was clear between the phone records, the oatmeal and the nail file this woman was distracted," said McDonald.
The lawyer also questioned the police investigation’s conclusion that Gorecki was running too far into the road. He said that fact would have made him more visible to Bauer, had she been paying attention to the roadway.
McDonald filed a negligence lawsuit on behalf of Gorecki’s estate. The only living family member was Gorecki’s sister, Arlene Kopka. His other sister, Cynthia Gorecki, passed away a short time after the accident.
Prior to her passing, McDonald met with the two sisters.
"The hardest part of this case for me was without doubt the day both sisters sat in my office to shed light on their relationship with their brother to me and how this has affected their lives and will always affect their lives," said McDonald. "Our meeting was full of emotion and it was evident that the loss of Ed has taken something very special from these two sisters."
The lawsuit was scheduled to go to trial March 26 before Superior Court Judge James Abrams in New Britain, but the two sides agreed to a mediation session March 19 with attorney Richard C. Mahoney, of Kenny, Brimmer & Mahoney in Wethersfield.
Going into the mediation session, McDonald was seeking $1.3 million for his client. The attorney representing Bauer’s insurance carrier, Richard Lord, of Litchfield Cavo in Simsbury, offered $500,000.
McDonald said Gorecki was earning roughly $62,000 annually as a security guard. McDonald argued that Gorecki was in great health and could have worked for another 15 years. That would put Gorecki’s lost wages at $930,000, McDonald argued.
With the help of Mahoney, McDonald said the two sides were able to come to an agreement on a $975,000 settlement. "I thought it was a fair resolution of a difficult tragic case," said Lord, the defense lawyer. He declined further comment.
"It really makes the $975,000 a good verdict in that the police put all the blame on my guy," said McDonald. Assisting McDonald in the case was Kevin Coyne, of Coyne, von Kuhn, Brady & Fries in Stratford.•