LOCKPORT – Attorneys for Niagara County feared that taking a lawsuit over a fatal pickup truck crash to trial might result in a big damage award for the widow of the Newfane man who died in the wreck. But the plaintiff’s attorney was afraid the case might be dismissed altogether.
The result was that the County Legislature voted Tuesday to settle the case by paying $75,000 to Jeanne C. Bogdan.
She is the widow of Francis J. Bogdan, who died at 59 when his pickup truck struck a county-owned box-end guardrail April 3, 2005, on Chestnut Road in Newfane.
“I think it’s in the best interest of the county to settle, given what their demand is,” County Attorney Claude A. Joerg said. He declined to make further comment until the settlement is approved and filed in State Supreme Court.
Philip J. O’Shea of the Buffalo firm of Smith, Miner, O’Shea & Smith, who represented the Bogdan estate, wouldn’t disclose the original damage demand, but he said it was “exceedingly beyond $75,000.”
State Supreme Court Justice Ralph A. Boniello III denied the county’s summary judgment motion to dismiss the case before trial.
The county, however, had appealed Boniello’s ruling.
O’Shea said, “We were not optimistic the Appellate Division would uphold the ruling.”
The result was many meetings with Mrs. Bogdan and negotiations with the attorneys, leading to what O’Shea called “a very compromised settlement.”
The county was arguing that it could take advantage of what lawyers call municipal qualified immunity, protecting local governments from lawsuits in certain circumstances.
O’Shea said he was not certain he could overcome that defense before the Appellate Division, which could have dismissed his case.
The crash happened at about 5 a.m. Sheriff’s deputies said at the time that they thought Bogdan, who was returning from Seneca Niagara Casino after working at the Delphi plant in Lockport, had fallen asleep at the wheel.
The issue in the case was whether the wrap-around end of the guardrail ought to have been modified for greater safety.