Trucker’s “Beyond Normal Mistake” Results in $18.75M Wrongful Death Settlement
Stamford, CT – On Friday, a trucking company agreed to settle a wrongful death lawsuit for $18.75 million as a result of an accident in 2016 that took the life of a Connecticut woman in 2016.
Food Haulers Inc. and its parent company, New Jersey-based Wakefern Food Corp., settled with the estate of Cristina Vomoca, who was 38 at the time of her death, approximately 24 hours after a jury was handed the case at the conclusion of a two-week trial.
The family’s attorney, Angelo Ziotas, was asking the jury for upwards of $47 million, which included compensatory damages for “every year Vomoca would not get to live.”
Ziotas said he had been trying to settle with Wakefern Food Corp. and ShopRite Supermarket “for years” following the 2016 accident.
An amended complaint filed in July removed ShopRite Supermarket as a defendant in the case.
The jury was to determine whether ShopRite trucker, Jeffrey Bodnar, 54 of Metuchen, NJ, was negligent in the accident that resulted in Vomoca’s death and severely injured her co-worker, Maiko Kobayashi, who was 32-years-old at the time of the crash.
Kobayashi suffered brain damage and later settled with Food Haulers Inc. for an undisclosed amount of money.
The accident occurred on Saturday, November 19, 2016 around 5:30 p.m. off of Interstate 95 in Greenwich.
According to authorities, Bodnar, who was driving a ShopRite truck, exited I-95 at Arch street in order to avoid heavy traffic as a result of another fatal accident on the interstate.
Bodnar exited the highway “with the intention of re-entering I-95 southbound,” according to a statement released following the accident.
Authorities say Bodnar “failed to stop for a red light at the bottom of the ramp and traveled across Arch Street,” causing his semi to collide with Vomoca’s 2015 Maserati Ghibli, which was located at the intersection of Arch Street and the I-95 off-ramp.
Data later downloaded from the truck showed Bodnar was traveling at 35 miles-per-hour in the 25 mph zone.
Firefighters reportedly were forced to cut through the roof of the Maserati to extricate the women.
Vomoca and Kobayashi were both rushed to the hospital, where Vomoca died eight days later.
Kobayashi survived, but sustained “significant injuries.”
Bodnar was not injured in the crash.
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A toxicology report concluded Bodnar did not have any drugs or alcohol in his system at the time of the crash.
However, Greenwich Police Lieutenant David Nemecek called Bodnar’s actions ” above and beyond what’s a normal mistake.”
“Tractor-trailer drivers have to drive to a different standard because they are driving a very heavy vehicle that could inflict a lot of damage,” Nemecek said. “The ramifications are that much higher.”
Bodnar was charged with manslaughter and first degree assault in August 2017.
Following the charges, he voluntarily turned himself into the Greenwich Police Department, where he was released on a $100,000 bond.
Bodnar was present and testified during the two-week trial, but invoked his Fifth Amendment Rights, refusing to answer any questions.
He is still facing criminal charges of manslaughter and first degree assault.
According to the Stamford Advocate, Bodnar declined to comment as he left the courtroom with his wife following Friday’s hearing.
According to Law.com, the defendants previously offered a $9 million settlement, which the plaintiff rejected.
Ziotas said Friday’s settlement of $18.75 million represents one of the largest wrongful death settlements in Connecticut’s history.
The settlement was awarded to Vomoca’s domestic partner, Paul Wilson, and their young son, Oliver.
“The Probate Court will supervise this,” Ziotas told Law.com following the announcement of the settlement. “The boy will get all of the money, but that does not make up for the loss of his mother.”
(Photos courtesy the family of Cristina Vomoca and the Greenwich Police Department)
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