"James Bonomo v. State of Connecticut: A man who was hit by a car while walking across a New Britain intersection in early evening darkness was recently awarded $150,000 by a jury, though the verdict was reduced by 25 percent for comparative negligence.
James Bonomo, then 20, of New Britain, went to a corner store with his 16-year-old sister, Querida, on December 18, 2008 at around 6 p.m. After exiting the store, the two attempted to cross South Main Street where it intersects with Ash and Roberts streets.
James Bonomo's lawyer, Jason L. McCoy, of the Law Offices of Jason L. McCoy, LLC in Vernon, said that brother and sister made it across the first lane of traffic and crossed the double yellow line. But then a vehicle driven by Karen Williams-Salmon, a state Department of Children and Families employee, struck Bonomo.
Bonomo is a big man, about 6-feet-5-inches tall and weighing 300 pounds. Williams-Salmon's car struck his right knee and Bonomo fell to the ground in pain.
X-rays taken at New Britain General Hospital revealed no fractures. Bonomo's pain continued, however, and he returned to the hospital two days later. Again he was x-rayed and sent home with pain medicine.
McCoy said Bonomo was next treated at Grove Hill Medical Center in New Britain. MRI exams revealed tears in the medial collateral ligament and anterior cruciate ligament in the right knee. Bonomo also had a disc herniation in his low back.
Doctors placed Bonomo's right leg in a hard cast, but McCoy said his client had such extreme anxiety about medical treatment and the cast that he ended up cutting the cast off on his own, with a machete. "He cut the thing off because it freaked him out so much," said McCoy.
McCoy said the day after Bonomo cut his cast off, he aggravated his knee injury while wrestling with his brother, prompting another trip to the doctor.
Bonomo's doctor said he will eventually need surgery on the knee, but because he's so anxious about medical treatment and lacks health insurance, he is putting it off for now. Bonomo has amassed $11,500 in medical bills so far, McCoy said.
Williams-Salmon, meanwhile, was driving a state-owned vehicle. There is a dispute over who had the right of way in the intersection. Bonomo and his sister said Williams-Salmon had a red light. Williams-Salmon claims the light was green.
McCoy brought a negligence claim on Bonomo's behalf against the State of Connecticut. The state was represented by Jeffrey C. Pingpank, of Cooney, Scully, in Hartford.
Pingpank argued that the accident wasn't Williams-Salmon's fault, that Bonomo was crossing the street against the light and not paying attention. Pingpank also argued that the wrestling match between Bonomo and his brother was more of the cause of Bonomo's knee pain than getting hit by the car.
Further, Pingpank attacked Bonomo's credibility by pointing out to the jury that he had a prior felony conviction for larceny. Bonomo was given a suspended one-year jail sentence and a one-year conditional discharge for the 2006 crime when he was 18 years old.
McCoy said the state made no pre-trial settlement offers. The case proceeded to trial earlier this spring before Judge Cynthia Swienton in New Britain Superior Court. Jury selection took six days. The trial itself took five hours.
Bonomo testified, as did his sister and their grandmother. A large part of the testimony focused on Bonomo's loss of life's enjoyment since his knee injury; Bonomo loved dogs and had three or four of them, but, he testified, the knee injury prevented him from playing with his pets. His grandmother said Bonomo could no longer go jogging with her.
McCoy said the only defense witness was Williams-Salmon. During her deposition and the trial, McCoy said, she could recall very few details of the accident. The attorney said she did not recall how fast she was driving and described Bonomo as "average-sized," despite his tall, hefty frame.
Jurors deliberated for around two hours and awarded Bonomo $150,000; but they said he was 25 percent at fault, reducing the verdict to $112,500. Pingpank, on behalf of the state, has filed post-trial motions contesting the verdict. A hearing is scheduled for May 20, and Pingpank declined to comment for this article.
McCoy said his client was happy with the verdict. He said Bonomo, now 24, just recently found a job in Texas and moved there. "When the verdict came in he was very satisfied," said McCoy. "It was definitely a serious injury and traumatic event. I think it compensates him in the way that he needs."•"