A judge Monday awarded $2.4 million to a Snyder man critically injured when a pickup truck slid head-on into his a car on an icy stretch of Harlem Road near Burroughs Drive on April 1, 1994.
In the decision, Court of Claims Judge John P. Lane faulted the state Department of Transportation for failing to handle adequately an underground water leak that caused dangerous icing conditions on a pothole-filled section of Harlem. He ordered the state to compensate Edward Fisher, 63, and his wife for injuries and continuing medical problems.
In March 1999, Lane found the DOT negligent in its handling of the leak. The damage amount released Monday was based on a five-day trial held last January in Buffalo. The judge pointed to "extraordinary and life-threatening injuries" suffered by Fisher, the CEO and president of Veritay Technology, a defense research-and-development business in East Amherst.
The judge ruled that DOT efforts to quickly cover potholes on that section of Harlem were eroded by a chronic leak from an underground line operated by the Erie County Water Authority. The leak began in January 1994.
The DOT failed to install warning signs on the roadway, the judge said.
The judge noted that the county Water Authority, which had state permission to operate lines under that roadway had repaired one leak months before the Fisher accident but never did anything about a second leak.
Though state highway law insulates the state from pothole liability, the state was well aware of the leak that led to the icing, and "the state's obligation to take remedial action was clear," the judge ruled.
Fisher, wearing a seat belt and driving north on Harlem when the crash occurred, suffered head injuries and extensive fractures, said John F. Maxwell, Fisher's attorney.
The accident left fractured Fisher's face,including his nose and upper jaw, his right clavicle, lower ribs and right hand and injured his left forearm, left knee and neck.
The judge noted that Fisher currently is able to work only four days a week. He also said Fisher faces more surgery to his left arm as well as a hip replacement.
Fisher "has and will continue to experience abnormal levels of fatigue that interfere with his ability to work and otherwise enjoy his life," the judge said.