Niagara County is expected to pay $2.75 million to the widow of a Newfane man killed when his vehicle was struck by a speeding Sheriff's Office patrol car.
Niagara County lawmakers are scheduled Wednesday to vote on the settlement with Mary A. Annalora. Her husband, Glenn T. Annalora, 61, died in the crash in Cambria.
Mary Annalora, 59, sued the county in May 2015, claiming negligence by Deputy James H. Bissell III. He resigned two months after the collision and eventually pleaded guilty to imprudent speed, running a stop sign and failure to yield the right of way.
"Above all, she is relieved," said attorney Terrence M. Connors, who represents Annalora. "It is a difficult thing for her to deal with, but it will help bring some closure."
The county is liable because Bissell was on the job when the crash occurred shortly after 7 p.m. on Oct. 22, 2015.
Bissell, 31, who had been a deputy for only 39 days, was southbound on North Ridge Road when he ran a stop sign and smashed into Glenn Annalora's SUV, which was eastbound on Ridge Road. Mary Annalora, a passenger in the SUV, was seriously injured.
A "black box" in the patrol car said Bissell was driving 74 mph with his overhead lights on five seconds before the crash, but had hit the brakes and was going 53 mph at the time of impact, according to Assistant District Attorney Thomas H. Brandt, who handled the case in Cambria Town Court.
Bissell was not responding to any particular call at the time, according to statements from Connors' associate, Lawlor F. Quinlan III, at the time of Bissell's guilty plea Oct. 4.
Bissell, who suffered a head injury in the crash, said he couldn't remember what happened. He paid $501 in fines and surcharges.
County Attorney Claude A. Joerg was unavailable to comment Monday, but when the civil suit was filed, he told The Buffalo News, “Look at the facts. There’s not much doubt as to what happened. I don’t think you’re going to come out of that case without paying any damages.”
"I would agree with that," said First Assistant County John J. Ottaviano, who represented the county in a daylong mediation session June 21, refereed by Rochester attorney James Morris.
"This matter was never about fault," Ottaviano said. "We were concentrating on potential damages, the injuries to Mrs. Annalora and the death of Mr. Annalora."
Ottaviano said the terms of the settlement call for the Legislature to approve the deal by Thursday, or it will be canceled and the case will go to trial.
The trial was scheduled for Sept. 25.
Asked if he was concerned a jury might award Mary Annalora more than the $2.75 million, Ottaviano answered, "I wouldn't want to risk it, I'll tell you that."
Connors said Mrs. Annalora is recovering from her injuries, which according to the lawsuit included fractured ribs and vertebrae.
"She has some issues to deal with, but they're improving," Connors said.
The $2.75 million would be paid in one lump sum.
County Treasurer Kyle R. Andrews said the money for the settlement would come from the county's unappropriated fund balance.