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Sisters to split $3.28 million settlement in death of parents

LOCKPORT – Two Town of Tonawanda sisters, whose parents were killed in a 2007 crash on Niagara Falls Boulevard in Wheatfield, will share more than $3.28 million in a settlement of a lawsuit against a Utica trucking company and the City of Lockport.

Court papers filed Friday showed that Ashley C. Burgio, 28, and Jillian M. Burgio, 23, accepted a $5 million settlement. The $3.28 million, to be split equally, remained after legal fees and expenses.

The women’s parents, Randall P. Burgio and Rosanne M. Burgio, died Sept. 4, 2007, when the Toyota RAV4 that Randall Burgio was driving collided head-on with a tractor-trailer owned by Casa Imports of Utica and driven by James V. Nessia.

After impact, the Burgio vehicle was struck by a Lockport garbage truck, driven by Roger F. LaRoach, which had been following the tractor-trailer.

Randall, 55, and Rosanne, 49, of David Drive, Wheatfield, were killed, while their daughters, who were riding in the back seat, were ejected from the vehicle.

The family’s attorney, John J. Fromen Jr., said Ashley Burgio, who now is married with two children, underwent brain surgery for an open skull fracture and had numerous fractures to her limbs. Jillian, who is single, sustained fractures to her skull, jaw, nose, teeth, arm and spinal column.

Fromen said Randall Burgio’s estate needed a different attorney, Charles S. Desmond II of the firm of Gibson, McAskill & Crosby, because of a potential conflict of interest.

“The two girls and the mom had a cause of action against the dad if it was ever proven he was at fault,” Fromen said.

That key point – who was to blame for the crash – was the subject of a hearing last fall before State Supreme Court Justice Ralph A. Boniello III.

Casa Imports and the city sought summary judgment in their favor, claiming that Randall Burgio’s vehicle crossed the center line into the path of the trailer. They used a State Police accident investigator’s report to back up that contention.

Desmond said the plaintiffs’ elaborate reconstruction included purchasing vehicles exactly like those involved in the crash and hiring a retired state trooper as an expert.

He concluded that Nessia, the truck driver, was at fault.

Boniello denied the summary judgment motion and scheduled a trial in September. Meanwhile, the parties had a two-day mediation session with attorney James Morris of Rochester.

“The City of Lockport felt they had no legal responsibility because their garbage truck driver was faced with an emergency situation,” Fromen said.

“It was our position that the garbage truck was following too closely in violation of the Vehicle and Traffic Law,” Desmond said. However, no tickets ever were issued.

“Judge Boniello was instrumental in helping all sides to see the value of a settlement,” said Charles E. “Ted” Graney of the Webster Szanyi law firm, the city’s outside counsel.

The final package included $4 million from Casa Imports’ insurance company; $700,000 from the city’s insurer; and $300,000 from Randall Burgio’s auto insurance company.