Chad Roman v. ADF Industries: A Pennsylvania man who survived an accident that killed another truck driver on Interstate 95 has recovered $715,000 in a lawsuit settlement.
Chad Roman, 42, a tractor-trailer driver from Albrightsville, Pa., was operating a rig owned by JP Express on I-95 southbound in Milford at 3:50 a.m. on April 7, 2010, according to his lawyer, John Houlihan Jr., of RisCassi & Davis in Hartford.
Roman was headed home after making a delivery in Massachusetts. Though Roman made deliveries for JP Express, of Deer Park, N.Y., he was considered to be self-employed.
Also traveling southbound on the interstate that night was Anthony Diorio, 56, of Unionville, Conn., who was driving a construction truck carrying an excavator. Diorio was driving for ADF Industries Inc., a subcontracting company from Berlin that had been hired by the state of Connecticut to do highway resurfacing and safety improvement work.
According to police, the boom on the excavator was raised, and as the truck approached exit 40, the raised boom crashed into an overpass. The impact forced the construction truck into the left lane, and directly into the path of Roman’s tractor-trailer.
Police said Roman swerved in an attempt to miss the construction truck, but he was unable to avoid the collision. The tractor-trailer smashed into the construction truck and then jackknifed.
The impact caused Diorio to be ejected from his truck. He was then hit by the tractor-trailer and pinned under it. Roman’s rig skidded onto the left shoulder of the interstate. Diorio was pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics.
The accident caused long delays for morning commuters, as a section of the highway was closed for clean-up. Oil spilled from the construction truck had to be removed by state Department of Environmental Protection workers.
Roman, meanwhile, was transported by ambulance to Milford Hospital. He was diagnosed with what at first seemed like minor injuries and was soon released. A day or so later the worst of his injuries emerged: Roman began experiencing significant lower-back pain.
The pain kept him from working, due to the sitting required with long tractor-trailer commutes. The driver received treatment from doctors and physical therapists in Pennsylvania, including specialists in pain management.
Houlihan said the lower-back injury turned into a lumbar facet syndrome, which causes joint and nerve pain. He received injections to try to alleviate the inflammation and pain in the joints. Roman’s medical bills to date are $61,000, his lawyer said.
Houlihan said Roman’s back couldn’t handle all the “jarring” of his body while driving a rig.
“He wasn’t going to be able to work again as a truck driver,” said Houlihan. “He’s otherwise a healthy young man, but he can’t do anything requiring sitting for a long period of time or lifting.”
Houlihan said Roman’s injury is not the type that requires surgery. Rather, he will need periodic injections and pain medicines. He said Roman remains out of work and has collected workers’ compensation benefits.
Houihan filed a lawsuit on Roman’s behalf against ADF Industries. Attorney Cynthia Garraty of North Haven represented the defendant company. Garraty declined to comment for this article.
Houlihan said the two sides went to mediation before retired Superior Court Judge Jonathan Silbert in May 2012 but were unable to reach a settlement. Making the case more difficult to resolve was that Roman had been collecting
workers’ compensation benefits, Houlihan explained.
Earlier this year, the parties then went back to Silbert, who now has a private dispute resolution practice at the New Haven firm of Garrison, Levin-Epstein, Richardson, Fitzgerald & Pirrotti, and reached a tentative agreement, though the workers’ comp portion of the case still must be resolved. As is often the case, there was a question of what portion of the settlement must be sent to the state Workers’ Compensation Commission to offset benefits already paid.
“The problem the first time around [in mediation], I think, is that all the parties needed a wake-up call on the value of the case,” said Houlihan. “Ours needed to be readjusted; theirs, too. The position of workers’ compensation needed to be adjusted perhaps the most. Once we settled that down, all the stars were aligned correctly, and everybody was better prepared.”
Houlihan said his client had approximately $130,000 in lost wages. The attorney added that going to trial could have been risky, as it’s often difficult to arrive at precise income numbers for truck drivers, especially those considered to be self-employed despite driving a rig for a particular company.
“What I have learned is that for truck drivers, income and tax returns aren’t always easily reconciled,” said Houlihan. “That was a big loose end.”
Houlihan said the ultimate settlement did not require any money repaid directly to workers’ compensation, though $78,000 was set aside to compensate the Medicare system for future medical treatments.
Roman, a U.S. Air Force veteran, is happy to be off of the workers’ comp rolls, Houlihan said.
“He can try to do any kind of work he wants now,” the lawyer said. “He’s not restricted by someone from workers’ compensation thinking he’s doing more than he should or less than he should. He can try anything he wants based on his limitations.”
Matthew Welnicki of Melick & Porter in Boston handled the workers’ compensation portion of the claim.
Houlihan commended everyone’s persistence through two mediations and ongoing settlement talks.
“It was a case that needed to get resolved,” he said. Roman, he added, “was pleased. It was a very frustrating process for him.”•