City, victim complete $2M accident settlement

Apr. 10, 2013 @ 06:13 PM

City officials have settled for $2 million an accident claim from a man who suffered head injuries after being hit by a Water Management Department truck late in 2012.

Half the payment to Reyes Abreo Gonzalez is being covered by insurance. The rest is coming from the city’s tax-funded risk-management reserve, Senior Assistant City Attorney Kim Rehberg said.

Rehberg and lawyers for Gonzalez negotiated the deal out of court, prior to and heading off the filing of a lawsuit.

“As soon as that accident happened, we had our own risk folks look at it,” Rehberg said, indirectly acknowledging that the facts wouldn’t have been on the city’s side in any legal battle. “We took it very seriously. It was a pretty bad accident; an unfortunate event.”

Gonzalez, the organizer of youth soccer leagues in the local Hispanic community, was injured on Dec. 30, 2011, as he walked to work at the Guglhupf Café.

He was crossing the road in compliance with a traffic signal when he was struck by the truck, which was making a left turn.

“It was early morning; I don’t know whether there was glare involved,” Rehberg said. “But for whatever reason, our truck driver did not see Mr. Gonzalez at all.”

The impact threw Gonzalez several feet. Medics took him to Duke University Hospital, where he remained in a coma for nine days.

His lawyers said he suffered “extensive brain damage,” leg fractures and internal injuries. He is still undergoing treatment and rehabilitation.

“The emergency and acute services Reyes received were incredible, but this settlement was needed to fund his long-term rehabilitative and care services,” lawyer Anthony Taibi said in announcing the deal.

Taibi’s law partner, Michael Kornbluth, added that the lawyers and their client were “pleased that the city of Durham did what was right in facilitating this settlement,” as “achieving the maximum possible recovery for individuals with traumatic brain injuries requires … expert services that are not considered emergency services and are often not readily available.”

Rehberg said the essentials of the deal were reached in February and ratified in closed session by the City Council.

The formal paperwork was completed on Wednesday, after a signoff from Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson.