Conn. court: Truck owners in fatal crash can sue

AP News
Posted: Nov 18, 2009 4:08 PM

The Connecticut Supreme Court reinstated a lawsuit Wednesday brought by the owners of a dump truck involved in a fiery crash in Avon in 2005 that killed four people and injured 11 others.

In its decision, the high court overturned a trial court's dismissal of the suit filed by David Wilcox, owner of Bloomfield-based American Crushing and Recycling, and his son Shaun against Acadia Insurance in 2007.

The two alleged that Acadia improperly refused to honor their $3 million insurance coverage after the crash at the base of Avon Mountain on July 29, 2005. Acadia said that Wilcox let the coverage lapse before the crash and that he and his son cannot sue as individuals because the policies were issued to the now-defunct trucking company.

In its unanimous ruling, the state Supreme Court said the Wilcoxes have legal standing to sue and sent the case back to Superior Court in New Haven. The ruling did not address the merits of either side's arguments about the coverage.

David Wilcox, 74, is serving a six-year prison term for manslaughter and other charges connected to the crash. It occurred when one of his company's dump trucks lost control while descending Avon Mountain and slammed into a line of morning commuters. Investigators blamed the crash on shoddy maintenance of the truck and the driver's inexperience. The driver died in the wreck.

The question of insurance is critical. If the lower court determines the policies were in effect, victims can pursue restitution from the Acadia payout. If not, they can file claims against their own insurance carriers as drivers who were involved in a collision with an uninsured motorist _ namely, the American Crushing truck and its now-dead driver.

Wilcox also seeks to recoup the $3 million payout to help victims of the collision.

He faces several civil lawsuits in connection with the crash. His attorney, Louis George, said Wednesday they are pleased with the Supreme Court's decision because it gives them a chance to show why they believe the truck was insured.

Webster Insurance, the agent who handled their policies, is a co-defendant in the case.

"Through a trial, everyone will learn that Acadia and Webster issued documentation confirming coverage was in place days prior to this accident," George said.

Messages seeking comment from attorneys for Acadia Insurance and Webster were not immediately returned.

A federal judge ruled in 2007 that Acadia did not have to pay crash victims and their families because the policy was not in effect at the time of the collision. Acadia raised that issue in the state Supreme Court case and said it made the Wilcoxes' claims moot, but the court disagreed.

David Wilcox was arrested in 2006 after a yearlong investigation into the collision. Killed in the crash were drivers Barbara Bongiovanni, 54, of Torrington; Maureen Edlund, 60, of Canton; Paul A. "Chip" Stotler, 42, of New Hartford; and the truck driver, Abdulraheem Naafi, 41, of Hartford.