There have been two significant developments recently in the Staten Island ferry crash litigation. The first involved a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the family of ferry crash victim John Healy. That case was settled by New York City for $8.7 million. Mr. Healy was killed in the 2003 Staten Island ferry crash. As previously reported, 11 people were killed and many others were injured in the crash. Kathy Healy, his widow, and her four children, will benefit from the settlement.

As you may recall from prior reports, John Healy was killed when the ferry crashed into a dock at full speed. A trial in his widow’s lawsuit had been scheduled to start in federal court when the case was settled. Kathy Healy, whose husband had been a lawyer with Kemper Insurance Co., was very critical over the way the city played hard-ball in dealing with her claim and those of others. She said the city tried every legal maneuver to wear them down, and to keep them from being “fairly compensated.” The only settlement that was larger was $8.9 million in February 2007 paid to Paul Esposito, 27, who lost both legs when the Andrew J. Barberi slammed into a concrete pier. The boat’s pilot, who was on painkillers and suffering from extreme fatigue, pleaded guilty to negligent manslaughter and lying to investigators and was sentenced to 18 months in prison. The city’s ferry director got a year in prison after pleading guilty to negligent manslaughter and admitting he failed to implement or enforce a safety rule.

The second important development involved a case filed by James McMillan. He was rendered a quadriplegic as a result of the crash. The city took the McMillan case into federal court in an effort to limit its damages to about $14.4 million under maritime law. But, a federal judge ruled that the city, as owner of the ferry, couldn’t limit its liability for the deaths and injuries caused by the criminal acts of the vessel pilot and the former director of the ferry service, as well as its own negligence.

An advisory jury in federal court heard the McMillan case last month and recommended that the 44-year-old passenger, crippled in the 2003 Staten Island Ferry crash, should get nearly $23 million for his past and future medical needs, pain and suffering and other expenses. The special advisory panel spent about five hours deliberating over what McMillan should get after he was left a quadriplegic in the accident. Jurors determined that McMillan would need $10.3 million in medical care for the nearly 25 years he is expected to live. The panel also said he should get $7.36 million for his future pain and suffering from the accident. Jurors also said McMillan’s past pain and suffering was worth $4.6 million and that he was due $685,000 in past medical expenses. The Judge will take the advisory verdict and decide how much should be awarded. A final judgment will be then entered. Thus far, the McMillan case is the only ferry case to go to trial on damages. All of the other cases are awaiting trial.

To date, the City of New York has paid out $51.8 million on 129 claims with 42 remaining. This incident occurred almost five years ago. The victims have had to wait a very long time to be compensated in a case of clear liability. Some are still waiting and that’s hard to understand. The City and its insurance carriers should bring this matter to a conclusion as soon as possible.

Source: Associated Press and NewsDay

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