Marion Tanyi v. Paul Labelle, III: A North Stonington woman who broke her neck and leg and injured her knees after a car crossed the center line and hit her head-on has settled her personal injury lawsuit for $800,000.
Marion Tanyi, 58, was operating a 2003 Buick Regal in an easterly direction on Route 2 in the New London County town of Preston around 3 a.m. Oct. 1, 2011. Meanwhile, Paul Labelle, III was operating a 2003 Mitsubishi Lancer in a westerly direction on Route 2. As the two cars approached each other, Labelle suddenly crossed the center lane of Route 2, entered Tanyi's lane and hit her vehicle head-on.
Tanyi's lawyer, Lawrence C. "Larry" Sgrignari, of Gesmonde, Pietrosimone & Sgrignari in Hamden, said the roads were wet that night. "[Labelle] had tires that were bald and hydroplaned across the center line," said Sgrignari.
Tanyi was initially taken by ambulance to the William W. Backus Hospital in Norwich. However, once doctors realized the severity of her spinal injury, she was then transferred to Yale-New Haven Hospital, said Sgrignari.
The next day, Tanyi was placed in a four-pin halo vest to keep her neck from moving, which would allow for the fracture to heal.
Sgrignari explained that metal braces are held by the vest, which goes over the patient's shoulders. A round portion that looks like a halo extends over the person's head.
"You can't bend or rotate the neck while the fracture heals," Sgrignari said of the halo vest. "Doctors didn't have to go in and put in hardware on the spine. They put the halo on externally and that held it in place and allowed for the fracture to heal."
Besides the cervical spine fracture, Tanyi also suffered a tibial plateau fracture in the right leg, which is in the shin area.
Three days after the crash, doctors performed an open reduction internal fixation (ORIF) procedure on the broken right tibia. By Oct. 7, 2011, Tanyi was transferred from Yale-New Haven Hospital to Pendleton Health and Rehabilitation Center in Mystic where she stayed until Dec. 11, 2011.
"Fortunately she had a very successful recovery with the neck," said Sgrignari.
However, Tanyi's right leg was still a mess and despite the surgery, procedures on her knee were also necessary due to her trouble walking.
Tanyi underwent an arthroscopic knee surgery for a medial meniscus tear on June 12, 2012 and then a left knee arthroscopy on January 15, 2013.
Throughout her recovery, Sgrignari said, Tanyi underwent several rounds of physical therapy for the neck and knee injuries.
As a result of her injuries, doctors assessed Tanyi with a permanent partial disability rating of 8-percent to her cervical spine, 13-percent to the right knee and 5-percent to the left knee.
"[The neck] was the significant injury, although the knee, because you use them every time you get up and walk, seems to be the one that's lingered the most with respect to causing her discomfort and restriction," said Sgrignari.
Sgrignari said more procedures on her knees in the future are possible.
Prior to her injuries, Tanyi enjoyed the outdoors and often engaged in long camping trips with family and friends. Persistent pain has since curtailed those trips.
"Her restrictions now limit the amount of walking, climbing, kneeling and lifting that she can perform," said Sgrignari. "The pain, stiffness and restricted motion make simple tasks like walking up stairs, cleaning, cooking or shopping difficult and often painful."
Sgrignari filed a lawsuit on Tanyi's behalf against Labelle for negligence and recklessness. Tanyi's medical bills to date total $194,903.
At the time of the motor vehicle accident, Tanyi was employed as a manager at Friendly's Restaurant earning approximately $900 per week. Her employment there was eventually terminated because she could not go back to work.
Sgrignari said that Tanyi was not medically cleared to return to work until this past May, though she's still restricted by her injuries. She has not yet found any employment, he noted.
Also, as a result of being out of work, Sgrignari said Tanyi has had to maintain coverage for her health insurance at her own expense. To that end, Sgrignari, just a few months after the crash, reached a settlement with Geico Insurance — Labelle's auto insurer — for the $250,000 policy limit.
"That allowed her to continue to pay her rent, pay living expenses, health insurance, and in turn it allowed her to receive medical treatment," said Sgrignari. "Otherwise, without employment she would've had no source of income."
Sgrignari estimated Tanyi's lost wages at $85,000.
In order to get more funds for his client, Sgrignari went to mediation with an attorney representing Travelers Insurance, as there was coverage for Labelle in an additional umbrella insurance policy.
The dispute went to mediation this summer with Judge Michael P. Kamp. Travelers Insurance was represented by Thomas Noniewicz, of the Law Office of Cynthia Garraty. Liability was not in dispute, just damages. Sgrignari said prior to mediation the two sides were about $350,000 apart.
Noniewicz was on vacation last week and unavailable to comment for this article.
At the mediation, Sgrignari said Tanyi maintained that her inability to find other suitable employment should entitle her to future lost wages, as well as damages for the ongoing cost of maintaining her health insurance benefits, which she'd need to continue until she found a job or reached her anticipated retirement at age 65. To date she'd spent over $8,000 on health insurance.
Following the mediation in late July the two sides agreed to settle the case for $800,000, offset by Geico's $250,000, resulting in Travelers Insurance paying $550,000.
In addition to Noniewicz, the Geico portion of the case on Labelle's behalf was handled by Thomas A. Pavano, of the Law offices of Paul W. Sullivan & Associates in West Hartford.•