Crash victim will receive $11 million
THE SCRANTON TIMES - SCRANTON, PA
By Michael McNarney TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER
A Dunmore woman who was badly hurt when her car was hit by a runaway garbage truck will collect nearly $11 million.
Insurers for waste hauler J.P. Mascaro & Sons will pay the money -- some in lump sums, some in regular payments -- to Phyllis Burton and her husband, Joseph. The deal was made official Thursday in a hearing before Judge Terrence R. Nealon.
The Burtons sued Mascaro after a garbage truck, overloaded by 4,000 pounds, careened out of control down a hill and smashed into her car on Route 6 in Carbondale on June 25, 1998.
The 1973 truck was described by a Mascaro mechanic as "the worst truck he had ever seen," according to court papers, with bad brakes and other grave problems -- problems Mascaro knew about but didn't fix. Mascaro and the driver were charged with a number of vehicle violations after the crash.
The driver hit the brakes as he drove west on Route 6 but said nothing happened, according to court papers. Witnesses estimated he was going at least 40 mph when he struck Mrs. Burton's Honda Accord, but the truck driver said he didn't know his speed because the speedometer was broken.
Mrs. Burton, 52 when the crash happened, suffered head, neck and back injuries, according to court papers. She has had a series of surgeries, seven nerve blocks, and many other procedures to alleviate pain that is so persistent it has led to chronic depression, according to court papers.
"She is continually fatigued. She has limited sitting and standing tolerance, as well as upper extremity deficits which results in decreased sensation and grip strength," according to court papers. "She is certainly not the person she once was and her treating physicians will opine her injuries are permanent and will be debilitating for the rest of her life."
Mrs. Burton did not attend Thursday's hearing. A message left at her home was not returned. She and her husband were represented by attorneys Bill Jones and Joseph A. Quinn Jr.
Mr. Quinn said he and the Burtons are "thrilled" with the agreement.
"Hopefully it will give them the chance to resume some normalcy in their life," he said.
Mr. Quinn said Mrs. Burton has never been able to return to her job as a nurse, had to give up her athletic activities and is almost confined to her home. Mascaro's insurers, Liberty Mutual Insurance Group and TIG Insurance Co., will pay two lump sums by January totaling $5.5 million, and then smaller lump sums every five years from 2009 to 2024 totaling $480,000.
The remainder of the settlement, at least $5 million -- more if the Burtons live longer -- will be paid in monthly increments.
Mascaro, based in Harleysville in Montgomery County, earlier paid $6.9 million to settle a lawsuit filed in 1987 after one of its trucks lost its brakes on Shady Lane Road in South Abington Township, hit a car, and killed a 5-year-old boy.