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JURY AWARDS HUSBAND, WIFE $1.94 MILLION

The Buffalo Sabres' director of suite sales and his wife, the daughter of a well-known Buffalo judge, were awarded $1.94 million Friday by a State Supreme Court jury for a debilitating traffic accident caused by an out-of-town motorist during the Taste of Buffalo festival two years ago.

Attorneys Terrence P. Higgins and Daniel B. Kane said Nicholas Turano, now 34, suffered debilitating injuries when Shawna Pierce ran a red light in a borrowed car on William Street at Elm Street, slamming into the Turanos' vehicle. The accident took place about 11 a.m. July 10, 1999.

Kane said Turano's wife, Kathleen, suffered a concussion in the crash from which she is still recovering.

Concluding a two-week trial before State Supreme Court Justice Joseph R. Glownia, a jury of five women and one man deliberated for about 90 minutes before ordering insurance carriers for Ralph DiNitto -- the Rochester man who owned the car driven by Pierce -- to compensate the Turanos for their injuries.

Though Nicholas Turano's doctor permitted him to return to work for the Sabres -- albeit in a wheelchair -- a little over two months after the crash, he will eventually need hip replacement surgery, the attorneys said. He now walks with a limp.

Kathleen Turano is the daughter of State Supreme Court Justice James B. Kane, former administrative judge of the state's Buffalo-based Eighth Judicial District.

The trial concluded Friday was for financial damages only. Last year, Glownia held Pierce, now 24, and DiNitto completely liable for the accident. Pierce had been lent the DiNitto family car.

DiNitto's insurance carriers are liable for the full jury award, Higgins and Kane said.

Pierce, who told police she was "lost" as she ran the red light, was not prosecuted criminally, according to Higgins and Kane. Court officials said attorneys for the DiNitto family's insurance carriers have not yet said whether they will appeal the jury verdict.

e-mail: mgryta@buffnews.com

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