verdicts-and-settlements-article

Harmer v. Gill

$2.3M Settlement

Date of Verdict: Jan. 2.

Court and Case No.: C.P. Lackawanna No. 2016-CV-6883.

Judge: Terrence Nealon.

Type of Action: Motor vehicle, wrongful death.

Injuries: Death.

Plaintiffs Counsel: Matthew D. Dempsey, Michael A. Dempsey, Timothy G. Lenahan and Christine S. Lezinski, Lenahan & Dempsey, Scranton.

Defense Counsel: Louis Bricklin, Bennett Bricklin & Saltzburg, Philadelphia.

Comment:

The estate of a man killed while riding his bike by a motorist has settled its lawsuit against the driver’s insurer for $2.3 million.

The settlement resolved claims by the Estate of Michael Harmer against driver Thomas Gill and the vehicle’s owner, Natalie Jordan. Because the defendants did not respond to the lawsuit, a default judgment was entered against them and a subsequent bench trial conducted by Lackawanna County Judge Terrence Nealon resulted in $2.7 million in damages against the defendants.

The estate then assumed rights to pursue insurance coverage from the defendant’s insurer, CSAA General Insurance Co., which claimed it did not owe a duty to indemnify GIll or Jordan.

CSAA’s attorney, Louis Bricklin, did not respond to a request for comment.

The plaintiffs counsel, Timothy Lenahan, declined to comment beyond what was laid out in court papers.

According to the plaintiff’s pretrial memorandum, “As a direct result of the negligence, carelessness and recklessness of the defendant Gill, the plaintiff, Harmer, sustained severe and permanent injuries which ultimately resulted in his death. At the time of the crash, the defendant, Thomas Anthony Gill, was under the influence of drugs, alcohol and substances which rendered him incapable to safely operate a motor vehicle. His impaired capacity was a substantial factor in causing the accident and injuries sustained by the decedent.”

Gill is currently incarcerated at Lackawanna County Prison, according to court papers. Harmer left behind two children. According to a local news report, Gill had been using heroin and cocaine at the time of the incident. He has yet to be sentenced.

The plaintiff also laid blame on defendant Jordan for negligence.

“The plaintiff alleges that at the time of the crash, the defendant, Natalie Jordan, knew or should have known of the co-defendant’s unfitness to drive and yet allowed him to operate her vehicle in which the crash and resulting injuries and death of the plaintiff were due to the negligent, careless, conduct of the defendant, Natalie Jordan,” the pretrial memorandum said.

The accident occurred on Aug. 28, 2016, in Scranton.

“Gill was operating a 2003 Chevrolet Tahoe in a northerly direction on South Main Avenue in the city of Scranton, at or near the decedent,” court papers said. “Suddenly, without warning, the defendant, Thomas Gill, negligently, carelessly and recklessly crossed over the southbound lane onto the western sidewalk, striking the decedent on his bicycle and dragging him for several feet. At no time did the defendant stop or render aid.”

—P.J. D’Annunzio, of the Law Weekly