Robert Peterson et al. v. Analise Tenney et al.: A man who was seriously injured after the motorcycle he was riding smashed into a vehicle that made a left turn in front of him has collected $975,000 in a settlement agreement.
Robert "Ross" Peterson, 43, of Clinton, was riding a motorcycle that he had just purchased the day before in the town of Westbrook on June 24, 2012, according to his lawyer, Bradford J. Sullivan, of Sullivan Heiser LLC in Clinton.
While driving down Pond Meadow Road near the Westbrook Hunt Club, a Honda Pilot driven by 18-year-old Analise Tenney, of Madison, made a sudden left turn in front of Peterson.
Sullivan said Peterson attempted to steer his classic 1983 Honda Shadow motorcycle to the left but was unable to avoid crashing into Tenney's sport utility vehicle. Sullivan said Tenney had "tunnel vision" as she zeroed in on a parking space to her left. She turned without even seeing Peterson coming towards her.
Sullivan said Peterson had decelerated to about 20 to 30 mph at the point of impact but his face smashed into a rear window of the SUV. The lower part of Peterson's right leg got pinned between the motorcycle and the SUV, which caused multiple fractures. Peterson was taken by a Life Star Helicopter to Yale-New Haven Hospital. Sullivan said that medical personnel did not expect Peterson to survive the crash, especially given the head trauma. Sullivan said skin from Peterson's face could be seen at the crash site on shards of glass.
Peterson ultimately survived his injuries after spending two weeks in the hospital and six weeks in a rehabilitation facility. Sullivan said Peterson, who was not wearing a helmet, would have died had he collided with the metal frame of the SUV between the front and side windows as opposed to hitting the glass, which gave way upon impact.
All told, Peterson suffered a head injury (which led to a period of amnesia), bad facial wounds, including an orbital socket fracture, a cervical spine injury, fractures to his tibia and fibula in his right leg, damage to his knee joint and the complete loss of his Achilles tendon.
Sullivan said Peterson underwent five surgeries, two of which occurred immediately after the accident. He is scheduled this month to get a new right Achilles tendon, which will come from a tendon in his big toe. Peterson currently is unable to flex his foot at all. Another future surgery on his knee joint is also likely, Sullivan said.
"The [other] fractures healed nicely. That's the good news," said Sullivan.
Tenney, the driver of the SUV, was ticketed by police after the crash for failing to yield the right of way. The vehicle was owned by her father.
Sullivan acknowledged that his client, too, was ticketed. Peterson was ticketed for operating a motorcycle without registration or insurance and for not have a motorcycle operator's license. Since he had purchased the motorcycle the day before, he had not taken care of those things yet.
Sullivan said his client has not worked a day since the crash. Peterson was employed as an auto body technician, repairing doors and fenders. Though it may be wishful thinking, Peterson is hopeful that if the Achilles surgery helps his condition he may be able to return to work following the three to nine months of rehabilitation.
Sullivan said Peterson's medical bills are about $328,000 and his projected lost wages over a 20-year period are $483,000.
Sullivan said Peterson was married with four children and described his client as a "blue collar" worker. He said the family endured some tough times financially since the accident.
With Peterson not working, the family had to borrow money from relatives to make mortgage payments. His wife works part-time for now and is trying to get a job as a bus driver, Sullivan noted.
The Tenneys were insured by Allstate. Sullivan said initially Allstate wasn't too responsive to his initial attempts to negotiate payment. The attorney filed a prejudgment remedy attachment in state court. That could have led to a formal hearing before a judge this month.
"Shortly thereafter, an offer was made by Allstate to settle Mr. Peterson's claim," said Sullivan. "Further negotiations with Allstate occurred over a two-week period until my clients instructed me to settle Mr. Peterson's claim for $975,000."
Sullivan said the Peterson family was "super happy" with the settlement, especially given their financial hardships. "My client was ready to take $700,000" said Sullivan. "It's more money than they've ever seen in their lives."
Sullivan said he dealt with a claim adjuster, Lisa Torello, from Allstate during all settlement talks. No lawyer was ever involved on behalf of the insurance company.
Sullivan and his client decided not to take the risk of seeking more money, in case Allstate decided to pursue a defense in court. At that point, there's always a risk, especially given the unregistered motorcycle. Sullivan said the negligent driver's father also tried to claim Peterson was driving too fast but there was no evidence of that.
"You always think you might be able to do better after you reach a settlement. But I think that's the nature of compromise," said Sullivan. "My clients didn't want to wait two to three years for the process to play out."•