Table Of Contents
- Skier Receives Settlement from Ski Resort for ACL Injury
- Settlement Obtained for Injured Train Passengers
- Unrestricted Drivers License Obtained for 3 Time Drunk Driver
- Husband gets $300,000 after 1987 loss of wife
- Motorcycle accident suit is settled for $3.5 million
- Woman who lost hand gets $2.17 million
- $775,000 Awarded In Mower Accident
- Store settles suit in fatal crash caused by a liquor customer
- Jury Awards $200,000 In Death at Gravel Hill
- School district pays $875,000 as settlement in fatal bus crash
Skier Receives Settlement from Ski Resort for ACL Injury
A skier was injured when struck in the back by a paddle on a paddle tow rope and dragged 150 yards before another skier hit the emergency button to stop the mechanism. The ski area was required to have an operator on duty, who would stop the mechanism when a skier was in distress. Either the operator was not on duty or, if so, failed to act. The skier sustained a torn ACL. A confidential settlement was reached following case evaluation by a panel of three attorneys.
Settlement Obtained for Injured Train Passengers
Husband and wife, passengers on an Amtrak train, were injured when they were thrown from their seats as a result of the engineer’s rear-ending another train. The husband suffered a torn meniscus and right shoulder injury. The wife suffered a chipped tooth, TMJ injury and back injury.
Kelly Law Offices, P.C. engaged in vigorous negotiations with Amtrak, which resulted in a six figure settlement without filing suit.
Unrestricted Drivers License Obtained for 3 Time Drunk Driver
An Ottawa County Circuit Judge overturned the Secretary of States DLAD decision to deny restoration of an operators license. Petitioner had been convicted of drunk driving three times and had his license revoked for a minimum of five years. He applied three times to the Secretary of State for a restricted license, but was denied.
Kelly Law Offices, P.C. appealed the denial and the Ottawa County Circuit Court ruled that the decision to deny Petitioner a license was not supported by “substantial, material and competent evidence and ordered the Secretary of State to issue Petitioner an unrestricted operators license.
Husband gets $300,000 after 1987 loss of wife
The Grand Rapids Press
The husband of a woman killed in a July 1987 car accident in Walker settled a lawsuit against the other driver for $300,000.
Joseph J. Walczewski of 1511 Marlin Ave. NW., agreed to a $250,000 payment for the loss of his wife, Carol, and $50,000 for injuries he suffered in the accident, said his attorney, Michael F. Kelly.
“Mr. Walczewski feels there’s no amount of money that can compensate him for the loss of his wife,” Kelly said. “But he agreed to the terms of the settlement and told the court that he was satisfied.”
Don Neil Kline, 28, of 3775 I Snow Mass Ave. NW, was accused of running a stop sign at Three Mile Road and Bristol A venue NW and hitting the Walczewski’s pickup on July 18, 1987.
Carol Walczewski, 50, was killed and Joseph Walczewski, 50, suffered neck, back and leg injuries, Kelly said.
Kline pleaded no contest to a charge of negligent homicide and was sentenced by Kent County Circuit Judge George Buth in April to two years probation and 120 hours of community service.
The settlement of Walczewski’s lawsuit against Kline was entered Friday before Kent County Circuit Judge Robert Benson.
Motorcycle accident suit is settled for $3.5 million
By Susan Collins, The Grand Rapids Press, July 28, 1987
A 26-year-old man severely injured in a motorcycle accident is expected to receive $3.5 million over his lifetime in a settlement reached Monday.
John Edward Frye of Hudsonville said he thinks the agreement in his lawsuit against Velting Contractors Inc. of Kentwood is fair and he is glad to avoid a trial.
“It’s a gamble when you go in there (to trial),” he said. “We just tried to work to a happy medium and not drag things out any longer.”
The settlement, estimated to be worth $1 million in present-day value, will be paid by the insurance company for the contracting company, said Frye’s attorney Michael F. Kelly.
The accident on Sept. 7, 1985, crushed Frye’s pelvis, left him with a severe limp and required him to have a colostomy.
He was taken to Butterworth Hospital, where doctors, including a plastic surgeon, an orthopedic specialist and a urologist began 121/2 hours of surgery to save his life, Kelly said. “But for that trauma team, I don’t think he’d be here today,” Kelly said.
Frye, who uses a cane and walks with a limp, is still undergoing rehabilitation.
Formerly a tool and die operator, he has been unable to work since the accident. He has returned to Grand Rapids Junior College for a two-year training program to become a plastics technician, a job he believes he will be able to accomplish despite his impairment.
Under the terms of the settlement, Frye will receive $100,000 cash initially and beginning in September 1988 will receive $2,000 a month plus an annual 3 percent increase. He also is scheduled to receive lump sum payments of varying amounts starting at age 35.
In the lawsuit filed in Kent County Circuit Court, Frye and his attorney say the accident occurred as Frye was driving south on Roger B. Chaffee Drive about one-half mile south of 36th Street in Wyoming.
He contends he was in the right hand lane and a Velting Contractors gravel truck was in the left lane. Both were southbound on the divided street.
The truck made a right turn, cutting in front of Frye’s Honda, the suit claims. Frye, to avoid the truck, laid down his motorcycle.
“When he did, the rear wheel of the gravel truck crushed his pelvis,” Kelly said.
The suit said the truck’s driver, Peter John Pols of Ottawa County, did not use his right turn signal and was driving too fast when he made the turn.
Pols and the contracting company deny they were negligent. They countered that Frye was driving too fast and was improperly trying to pass the truck on the right. They also said he failed to see the truck’s right-turn signal.
“We continue to contest liability to the end,” said the defendants’ attorney, Ronald W. Sondee of Traverse City. “But realizing the risk of a trial to both sides, we decided a settlement was the way to go.”
Woman who lost hand gets $2.17 million
By Peg West, The Grand Rapids Press, February 16, 1996
She describes the sound like a hand in bicycle spokes, except it was her bones hitting a blade.
Dee Stevens remembers little else except intense pain in the moments after that October 1989 accident at a Zeeland woodworking plant, where she was a temporary worker. She recalls spurting blood and a co-worker grabbing her arm, then her ride to the hospital.
She first addressed the extent of her injury at the hospital, when she looked at her co-worker and said, “I lost my hand, didn’t I?”
Her co-worker cried. A few days later, when her dressing was changed, reality’s impact hit her. It was her turn to cry.
Now, more than six years later, a suit she and an insurance company brought has been settled with the manufacturer of the wood-molding machine that severed her hand.
Stevens has a settlement worth some 2.17 million, with a monthly payment of $2,136 and a cost-of-living adjustment every three years until her death.
The settlement comes at the end of a legal and personal maze Stevens has traveled since the accident at Great Lake Woods, Inc. She worked through psychological problems and post-traumatic stress syndrome.
And in part of her personal settlement, she recently moved back to her native Houston.
“Holland reminded me of my accident… I drove by the place all the time,” she said. “I’ve left all the baggage up here and started a new life in Houston.”
She also had occupational therapy to get used to living without her dominant left hand. It’s a study in frustration and, sometimes, embarrassment, though the latter has subsided over the years.
Stevens, now 32, cannot zip her own jacket, cut her meat or wear a necklace that she must clasp. When she gets ready in the morning, she must find a neighbor to tie her shoes. “And I hate it, ” she said.
Dee Stevens, right, talks about the accident that amputated her left hand as attorneys Donald Exelby, left, and Michael F Kelly listen.
She originally came to Holland to visit relatives and contemplate pursuing her master’s degree.
She hired on as a temporary working at the plant, which molds wood into such products as picture frames. After a few days in a warehouse area, she was moved to work on a molding machine that had several spindles with blades to shape straight pieces of wood.
Instructed to deploy a lubricating device when a piece of wood jammed, Stevens reached underneath the machine to do so, placing her other hand on the molders tray to support herself. In a split second, her hand was sucked in.
Michael F. Kelly and Donald Exelby-the case’s co-attorneys-maintained the machine was missing a safety guard to cover the exposed blades. They sued the machine’s German manufacturer, Weinig A.G.
Michigan’s worker’s compensation laws prevented Stevens from directly suing the employer.
Weinig in turn went to trial in January on its lawsuit against the machine’s owner, West Michigan Molding Co., which was leasing the machine to the employer. A jury awarded about $400,000, which is intended to defray the German firm’s settlement costs, said Steven Barney, Weinig’s attorney.
Weinig sued the machine’s owner because it had removed and modified safety devices, Barney said. West Michigan Molding’s attorney, William Ewald, couldn’t be reached for comment.
While preparing for trial, Barney said, discrepancies about the machine’s safety devices were revealed. Coupled with the likely victim sympathy, the case “was a good one to fold your tent and go home on,” Barney said.
$775,000 Awarded In Mower Accident
By Tom McCarthy, The Grand Rapids Press, September 20, 1977
Buchanan and Kelly preparing the case in the “Touchette Room,” where they stored evidence including the mower in front of them, that sent a piece of metal hanger into Mark/s heart. The lawyers and others edited down, for court use, some of the 19 hours of video taping at the Touchette home.
A young husband who has been confined to a wheelchair since a piece of metal coat hanger was hurled into his heart four years ago by a power lawn mower has won a $775,000 out-of-court-settlement.
Mark Touchette, 24, and his wife, Cheryl, 1000 Johnston St. SE, had been married only about six weeks when the accident occurred May 10, 1973.
Trial had been scheduled to begin Monday in the negligence case brought by the Touchettes against MTD Products of Cleveland and Montgomery Ward. The settlement, approved by Judge Stuart Hoffius, reportedly was the largest on record in Kent County Circuit Court.
The 1961-model rotary mower, manufactured by MTD and sold under Montgomery Ward’s brand name, struck a metal coat hanger as Touchette was mowing the lawn, sending a one-inch piece of metal into the left ventricle of Touchette’s heart. The machine did not have a guard and the rotating blade passed below the cover.
Touchette underwent open-heart surgery for removal of the wire, but according to doctors, the metal caused clotting, and a clot traveled to the brain, causing a massive stroke. He was left paralyzed and speechless.
As medical bills mounted, Mrs. Touchette sought help from attorney Michael F. Kelly. Her original intent was only to have the bills honored by the insurance company.
Kelly and attorney John G. (Jack) Buchanan spent a year investigating and researching the case before filing suit in 1975, charging MTD and Montgomery Ward with negligence.
Buchanan said they were prepared to offer several video presentations in court, including a day in the life of the Touchettes.
The attorneys filmed 19 hours of one day’s activities, beginning with Mrs. Touchette helping her husband from bed and ending with his return to bed. It was condensed to two hours for court viewing.
Geoffrey Gillis, representing MTD and Montgomery Ward, acknowledged the settlement figure as large by area standards, but pointed out that similar suits have resulted in multi-million dollar settlements in other jurisdictions.
‘There was also the problem of trying to keep today’s safety standards separated from 1961 standards in the minds of the jury,” he said.
Gillis, without admitting fault, said he hoped the settlement would provide the financial security the Touchettes need.
Touchette, although still confined to a wheelchair, has learned how to speak again. He also had a van converted to complete hand controls, entering and leaving via a lift at the rear. He is now a Davenport College student, training in computer operation.
Last year, he bagged a button buck while deer hunting in the Big Rapids area. He had a permit from the DNR to take any deer.
The case of Mark Touchette, being wheeled out of his home at 1000 Johnston St. SE by wife Cheryl, was handled by attorneys John C. Buchanan and Michael F. Kelly.
Store settles suit in fatal crash caused by a liquor customer
By Said Deep, The Grand Rapids Press, September 9, 1988
A Jenison woman whose husband was killed by a drunken driver in 1988 was awarded $775,000 Friday by the store that sold alcohol to the driver prior to the fatal car crash.
But in agreeing to the settlement, the lawyer representing the insurance company for Mother Hubbard Inc. made it clear that the local convenience store chain was “not admitting any wrongdoing, but doing this as a result of a compromise.”
The settlement was reached nearly a year after Susan Herrmann, 29, filed a lawsuit in Kent County Circuit Court against the Kentwood-based Mother Hubbard and Steven James Osborne Jr., the driver of the vehicle that struck the car that Herrmann’s husband, David, was driving. Osborne is currently in prison.
The lawsuit was filed under the state’s Dram Shop Act, which allows people who claim to be injured through the actions of drunks to sue the establishment that served them alcohol.
The lawyer for Susan Herrmann said the law usually is applied to bars and rarely has been used against retail stores.
“I’m happy with the settlement,” Susan Herrmann . said. “But it doesn’t replace his (David’s) life. I’m glad it didn’t have to go to trial.”
The couple had met in high school when she was just 16, she said. They later married and had two children during the nine years they were married.
“My husband was my only boyfriend,” she said. “He was such a part of me. You just don’t replace that.”
Herrmann’s lawyer, Michael F. Kelly, with the law firm of Kelly, Henkel & David in Grand Rapids, called the settlement “fair and equitable.”
“This case could have gone either way at a trial,” he said. Circuit Judge David Soet also entered a default judgment against Osborne, who is currently in prison, for $290,353. The judgment was entered because Osborne failed to respond to the lawsuit when it was filed in 1990.
Kelly said he doubts Osborne will ever pay that amount. Osborne had no automobile insurance, he said. “Ideally, I wish this driver had a million-dollar policy,” Kelly said.
Authorities say Osborne was driving drunk at speeds of nearly 100 mph late Sept. 8, 1988, swerving from one side of East Beltline Avenue to the other as he drove down a two mile stretch of the road.
Kentwood police have said Osborne ran red lights at 28th Street and 36th Street before he came to the 44th Street intersection.
A Kentwood police office, who saw the pickup pass him and run the red light at 28th Street, turned on his overhead lights and chased Osborne. Osborne said he never knew he was being pursued by police.
Herrmann was stopped at 44th Street and Broadmoor Avenue when a car pulled out and forced Osborne, who had run a red light, to swerve, according to witnesses. Osborne crashed his pickup into the driver’s side of Herrmann’s car.
Herrmann, 27, died two days later. Tests showed Osborne’s blood alcohol level was more than twice the level at which a driver is legally considered drunk.
On the day of the accident, Osborne and a friend spent the day drinking vodka and peach schnapps in Dutton Park, Kelly said. The two later had a couple of beers at a trailer park in Dutton before driving to the Mother Hubbard store at 32nd Street and Breton Avenue SE, Kelly said.
There, they allegedly purchased more vodka and schnapps and fixed themselves a drink in the parking lot, Kelly said.
“They (convenience store) made an illegal sale selling to someone who was visibly intoxicated,” Kelly aid.
“The (dram shop) law is commonly applied to bars and very seldom against retailers. This is one of the rare instances the retailer is held responsible.”
Larry Donaldson of Detroit, the lawyer representing Mother Hubbard Inc., said the settlement was “just a compromise.”
In court, he said the company was not admitting to any wrongdoing.
Earlier this year, Mother Hubbard Inc. filed for bankruptcy in U.S. Bankruptcy Court under Chapter 11 proceedings, asking for protection from its creditors while restructuring its debt. Friday’s settlement was paid by the chain’s insurance companies.
As part of the settlement, $55,000 will be placed into an account for Herrmann’s ll-year-old daughter and $45,000forher8-year-old son. Herrmann’s children will have access to the funds once they turn 18.
The money was set aside to pay for the children’s college educations.
Jury Awards $200,000 In Death at Gravel Hill
The Grand Rapids Press, Saturday, November 19, 1977
A Kent County Circuit Court jury awarded $200,000 to the parents of a man killed when the Jeep he was driving flipped over the side of a gravel pile and landed on its top.
Although the jury found that the Kent County Road Commission was guilty of “gross negligence” in the maintenance of the area in Fallasburg Park where the accident occurred, the jury also ruled that the driver, Jack Lucchesi Jr., was partly responsible for the accident.
Under Michigan’s comparative negligence law, the jury found Lucchesi to be 15 percent responsible for the accident, and deducted that percentage from the $200,000 award.
Mr. and Mrs. Jack Luccehsi Sr. are expected to receive a total of $170,000 for the loss of companionship and love resulting from the death of their son.
The judgment is believed to be the largest award in Kent County to the parents of an adult, in which the parents were not dependent on the offspring for support.
Lucchesi was killed in November, 1977, when he attempted to climb the gravel hill. On his third attempt, the Jeep flew over the top and flipped down the other side. Lucchesi and his three passengers were killed.
Half of the gravel hill had been cut away by the Road Commission, leaving a sheer drop of about 20 feet. The accident occurred in the dark, and Lucchesi apparently was not aware the gravel had been removed.
In their suit, the Lucchesis accused the Road Commission of failing “to properly remove gravel from this hill, which it knew to be subject to off-road vehicular use.”
The Road Commission failed to construct a warning sign for drivers and made no attempt to physically prevent cars from driving in the area, according to the Lucchesi complaint.
The trail included the first use in Kent County courts of video tapes. Attorneys for the Lucchesis used the tapes to show jurors the crash site and to persuade them that visitors to the area had not been warned of the danger at the gravel hill.
School district pays $875,000 as settlement in fatal bus crash
By Peg West, The Grand Rapids Press, Monday, October 14,1996
Elmer Scharaswak hopes a legal settlement over his daughter’s death in a bus crash sends a message to education officials.
“It isn’t going to bring my daughter back, but I hope it wakes up some of the schools in the area,” Scharaswak said.
The family of Carol Ann Scharaswak reached an $875,000 settlement with Forest Hills Public Schools this summer for the 1993 collision at East Fulton Street and Crahen Avenue NE.
Although both parties agreed not to release settlement details, The Press obtained the settlement amount last week from the school district through a Freedom of Information Act request.
The agreement states that “this release and settlement is not to be construed as an admission of liability on the part of (bus driver) Barbara Joan Stockwell and the Forest Hills Public Schools.”
Forest Hills Superintendent Michael Washburn said the crash also had a “crippling effect” on Stockwell and her family.
“There are certainly no winners-just victims-with this,” Washburn said last week. Stockwell asked for immediate reassignment after the crash and now is a teacher’s aide, he said.
The settlement comes from a basic insurance policy and a second “catastrophic” policy for excess amounts, Washburn said, noting the money doesn’t come from operating funds.
The insurance money also covers Stockwell as an employee, he said.
The family filed suit in January 1994 against the school district and bus driver Stockwell, claiming negligence by the bus driver.
Scharaswak, 33, was driving west on East Fulton on her way to work as an administrator at John Guest Evangelistic Team when the bus tried to turn left from Crahen onto Fulton in Grand Rapids Township, authorities have said.
Police say Stockwell apparently didn’t see oncoming traffic when she pulled into the path of Scharaswak, whose Mercury Tracer slid beneath the bus.
The Scharaswak family’s attorney, Michael F. Kelly, said it’s “unfortunate” that it took such a crash to “motivate the highway department to install” a traffic signal at the intersection.
In an interview after the settlement, Scharaswak family members said its still painful to travel through that intersection, but they hope the traffic signal might help prevent another family from enduring such grief.
They recalled a spirited woman who possessed a strong faith-something that gives them some comfort in her death.
No children were on the bus when the crash occurred, and Stockwell wasn’t injured. She had just dropped off students at Forest Hills Northern High School and was headed to her first elementary school stop.