What began as the largest known plaintiff’s verdict in a lawsuit against the state of Connecticut has ended up as a smaller, though still hefty, settlement.
This past March, a Bridgeport Superior Court jury awarded Bridgeport restaurant owner Melvin Gordils $16.3 million after an accident in which Gordils lost his leg when he was struck by a police cruiser. The state trooper drove away from the accident scene once and then returned, only to pepper the injured man with questions before calling for medical help.
Now Gordils’ lawyer said his client has agreed to a $9.8 million settlement with the state.
Joel Faxon, of Stratton Faxon in New Haven, told the Connecticut Post that an appeal of the verdict by the state would have taken years to resolve. He said Godils chose to settle and end the matter rather than risk a retrial if the appeal succeeded.
“Melvin is very happy to have this case behind him and finally have the financial resources to pay for his medical needs,” Faxon said. “The state filed an appeal of the verdict which would have taken years to resolve — during which time Melvin would receive nothing — and rather than risk a retrial if the appeal were successful, he opted for finality and settlement.”
According to the Associated Press, Hartford lawyer David Haught, who represented the state, did not return calls and emails to the Connecticut Post. The Attorney General’s Office normally represents the state in lawsuits. Earlier this year, the AG’s office told the Law Tribune that the defense lawyers were provided by the state’s insurer.
Gordils was headed home at about 2:30 a.m. on May 29, 2010, when his truck ran out of gas in the northbound lanes of the Route 8 and Route 25 connector near Interstate 95. As he was walking across the highway, he was struck by Trooper Darren Pavlik’s cruiser while crossing a highway.
In March, Faxon told the Law Tribune that Gordils had crossed the two northbound highway lanes and the median and was “within nine inches” of making it across the two southbound lanes when he was struck by the cruiser, which was going 100 mph without any emergency lights or sirens on.
The cruiser, driven by Pavlik, an 18-year State Police veteran, severed Gordils’ right leg, crushed his left leg and pelvis and severely damaged his arms. Faxon said Pavlik, instead of stopping to help Gordils, drove around Bridgeport, erasing evidence of the crash from the camera installed in his vehicle. He then returned to the accident scene and got out of his cruiser and checked for damages. Faxon said the said the officer then “interrogated” Gordils by asking why he was running across the highway and if he had been drinking. “He was trying to establish a story that will exonerate the police officer,” Faxon told the Law Tribune.
Faxon has noted that there were essentially no settlement talks in the case. Following a two-week trial, a Superior Court jury of four women and two men awarded a total of $25 million in economic and noneconomic damages to Gordils and then reduced that amount to $16.25 million after the jurors found that Gordils was 35 percent liable for his own injuries.
The defense had argued that Gordils was drunk and claimed his judgment was impaired when he decided to walk across the highway.
In total, Gordils spent nine months in the hospital and endured 25 surgeries. He has brain damage, uses a wheelchair and cannot grip anything with his hands. He needs around-the-clock care. “He is the most catastrophically and traumatically injured client we have ever represented and I’ve represented some catastrophically injured people,” said Faxon.•
The Associated Press contributed to this report.