FOLLOW UP / Town being sued for NOT having a Dive Rescue team
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FOLLOW UP / Town being sued for NOT having a Dive Rescue team
This incident was discussed in August 2005 because the town was being sued for not having a dive rescue team. The following is an update.
Lawsuit Over Saybrook Point Accident Going To Trial
By Eileen McNamara , Published on 1/31/2008 Old Saybrook — A lawsuit against the town filed by the family of a woman who was rescued from a submerged sport untility vehicle off Saybrook Point is headed for trial.
A Hartford Superior Court judge has scheduled the trial to start on April 14. The case was transferred from Middletown Superior Court to Hartford about a month ago, in part because it has been deemed a “complex litigation” by the court system, and those cases are now heard in Hartford.
Robert Reardon, the New London lawyer who represents the family that brought the lawsuit, said all sides involved in the case are still open to the possibility of settling.
“As with any case, all sides are investigating the possibility of talks,” Reardon said.
The legal action was filed in 2005, about a year after 75-year-old Barbara Connors was saved from the chilly waters of the Connecticut River by local emergency workers. Connors was trapped in a Ford Explorer that her son-in-law, Alan Hauser of Old Lyme, accidentally drove off Saybrook Point in October 2004.
Connors was trapped in the car for 29 minutes before rescuers, in a dramatic effort that included assistance from bystanders, were able to get her out of the submerged vehicle and resuscitate her.
Connors' family argues the town is partly to blame for the brain damage they said Connors suffered in the accident because it did not have safety measures in place at Saybrook Point to stop a car from falling into the water. They also argue in the lawsuit that the town should have had a trained dive team among its rescue units. A judge later dismissed that claim from the lawsuit.
The town last month filed a motion in the case asking the judge overseeing it to decide the case in the town's favor instead of going to trial. The town argues in its legal action that it is not at fault for the accident because of the legal concept that towns and municipal officials are entitled to government immunity.
The town's lawyer, James Williams, could not be reached for comment Wednesday. He has previously said, however, that he believes the town will prevail on its argument that it is entitled to immunity in the case.
The lawsuit has rankled some local officials and residents who have said it smacks of ingratitude by Connors' family for the heroic efforts of the firefighters and police who braved the cold waters of the river to save the elderly woman. Reardon said Connors' family has always been grateful to the rescue workers and believe the accident could have been avoided if proper safety measures were in place at Saybrook Point. The town's failure to install concrete barriers between the water's edge and parking areas when it improved the park in 2001 was negligent, the lawsuit states. Connors' family is also suing several town officials, along with architects and engineers who designed the improvements at Saybrook Point.
Woman settles rescue-workers suit for $870,000 Accident victim had claimed severe brain injuries By M. MATTHEW CLARK , Published on 5/9/2008
Old Saybrook - Barbara Connors - the woman who sued the town and the rescue workers who, four years ago, pulled her from the Connecticut River - has reached an out-of-court settlement for $870,000.
New London attorney Robert Reardon, who represents Connors, said there would be no further comment other than a press release issued Thursday, a condition of a mutual agreement among all the parties of the lawsuit.
The family offered to settle for $1 million a year ago, but the town and other parties rejected the offer. James Williams, the town's attorney, declined to comment Thursday.
Connors was the passenger in a Ford Explorer being driven by her son-in-law, Alan Hauser, that crashed through a chain link fence at Saybrook Point into the Connecticut River on Oct. 14, 2004. The suit contended Connors suffered severe brain injuries from being underwater for nearly 30 minutes before police and firefighters eventually extricated her from the vehicle.
It was raining that day and visibility in the water was zero. Hauser told police at the time that while he was trying to park the Explorer, the truck“surged forward” and when he went to hit the brake his foot slipped and punched the accelerator instead, sending the heavy vehicle airborne into the 60-degree waters.
When the then-75-year-old woman was finally pulled from the water, she had no pulse. As she was rushed to Essex Shoreline Medical Center, emergency workers resuscitated Connors before Life Star helicopter flew her to Yale-New Haven Hospital where she stayed on life support for three days until she started breathing on her own.
In the weeks following the accident, the town's police and fire departments were praised for their heroic efforts in saving Connors' life. Fifty people gathered at Saybrook Point two weeks after the accident to honor the emergency crews in a formal awards ceremony.
But eight months later, Connors and her family had filed suit against the town, First Selectman Michael Pace, police Chief Edmund Mosca, and even Hauser. In previous news stories, Reardon said it was common for family members in auto accidents to sue each other in order to collect insurance.
Pace said Thursday he could not comment for this story.
The suit contended that the accident never would have happened had the town installed concrete barriers at Saybrook Point, a 2.3-acre waterfront park that underwent improvements in 2000. Court papers also alleged that police and fire didn't act fast enough in their rescue, claiming that Connors wouldn't have been underwater so long if the town had its own dive team. The architect and engineer that redesigned the park were eventually added to the suit. Karen Hauser of Old Lyme, Connors' daughter, led the lawsuit, because her mother now lives in a nursing home in Waterford where she suffers from dementia, which the family said was caused by the accident.
In 2004, Alan Hauser drove his Ford Explorer over a sidewalk, through a chain-link fence and into the river at Saybrook Point. His mother-in-law, who has now reached an out-of-court settlement, was trapped in the vehicle for 29 minutes before she was rescued. (COURTESY OF THE REARDON LAW FIRM, P.C.)
By MAGDALENE PEREZ | Courant Staff Writer May 9, 2008 OLD SAYBROOK - — A woman who was rescued after her son-in-law drove his car into the Connecticut River has reached an $870,000 out-of-court settlement, an attorney for the woman said Thursday.
Barbara Connors, of Medfield, Mass., was trapped in her son-in-law's Ford Explorer for 29 minutes after he drove it over a sidewalk, through a chain-link fence and into the river at Saybrook Point in 2004. Connors, who was 75 at the time of the incident, later sued the son-in-law, Alan Hauser, and a long list of town officials.
After the suit was filed, the engineer and an architect involved in an improvement project at Saybrook Point in 2000 were added as defendants, according to a statement by Robert Reardon Jr., Connors' lawyer.
The suit alleged that the town's failure to maintain a rescue dive team caused Connors to remain submerged in the water until divers could get to her. It also charged that the fence should have been stronger, the town-owned Point should have been patrolled at lunchtime and there should be more signs warning of "unsafe conditions."
Connors' lawyer said at the time the suit was filed that Connors had severe brain damage from the incident and was living with round-the-clock care in a nursing home in Waterford.
The incident happened in October 2004, when Hauser drove his mother-in-law to Saybrook Point for lunch.
After the SUV drove into the river, two crewmen in a schooner saw Hauser in the water and pulled him onto a rubber dingy. They then lent the boat to town police and other rescuers, including fire, police, state Department of Environmental Protection and U.S. Coast Guard workers.
Two divers rescued Connors by smashing a window in the vehicle and dragging her onto the dinghy.
The town's portion of the settlement is covered by insurance, Pace said. He could not comment further because the settlement is subject to a confidentiality agreement. Lawyers for Hauser and the town did not respond to phone calls Thursday.
It is important to note that a while back the suit against the fire department was removed from the overall lawsuit. As I remember the Judge removed it but I cannot remember the specifics. The suit against the town and the firm that renovated the area was allowed to continue and that is what the settlement was for. It was the town and design firm that did the renovations who were liable for not putting up adequate protection to prevent vehicles from going into the river. I am sure that is why they settled but I know the settlement had nothing to do with the Fire and Police response. I mean come on 29 minutes is what the defendants lawyers were complaining about.
Even thought the lawsuit against the FD was removed it is still important to use this as a reminder that on any day for any given reason we are all vulnerable to lawsuits.