On July 26, 2009, Diane Schuler, a 36 year old wife, mother of two and aunt of three, drove southbound in the northbound lanes of the Taconic Parkway for 1.7 miles in an intoxicated condition (with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.19%, more than double the legal limit) with her 2 year old daughter, five year old son, and three nieces between the ages of 5 and 8 in the vehicle. There was a head-on collision with a car proceeding northbound driven by Guy Bastardi, with his father Michael Bastardi Sr. and family friend Daniel Longo passengers in the vehicle. With the exception of Schuler’s son Bryan, who suffered serious injuries but survived the horrific accident, everyone else in both vehicles died in the fatal crash.
Two years after the crash, a spate of lawsuits have been filed by the families of the occupants of both cars, as well as by Dean and Angela Tallarico, who suffered minor injuries in a third vehicle in the accident.
In 2009, Roseanne Guzzo, the sister of Guy and daughter of Michael Bastardi, Sr., filed a wrongful death suit against the Schuler estate and Warren Hance (Diane’s brother and the owner of the SUV she was driving), claiming that Schuler negligently operated the vehicle in an intoxicated condition and caused the deaths of her brother and father.
This month, with the two year wrongful death statute of limitation about to expire, five other lawsuits were filed, including:
A lawsuit by Daniel Schuler, the husband of Diane Schuler, against the State of New York, alleging that the accident was caused by negligent roadway design, maintenance, and improper signage, resulting in the death of his 2 year old daughter Erin and injuries to his surviving son Bryan;
A second lawsuit by Daniel Schuler against his brother in law Warren Hance, claiming that Hance was responsible for the accident as the owner of the minivan driven by Hance’s sister Diane Schuler;
A suit by Jackie Hance, the mother of Katie, 5, Alyson, 7 and Emma 8, alleging that due to Diane Schuler’s negligent and intoxicated operation of the minivan, her daughters suffered “pre-impact fear and terror, fear of impending death, extreme horror and mental anguish.” This lawsuit was commenced in the Suffolk County Supreme Court.
Last, Daniel Longo’s brother Joseph sued both the Schuler Estate and Warren Hance for the wrongful death of his brother. To be very blunt, both lawsuits by Daniel Schuler have a substantial likelihood of being dismissed, due to the incontrovertible fact that Diane Schuler’s operation of the minivan in the wrong direction in an intoxicated condition with a blood alcohol concentration more than double the legal limit was the proximate cause (substantial factor) in causing the accident, and not improper signage, negligent design of the Taconic, or Mr. Hance’s ownership of the vehicle.
It is also highly unlikely that any jury in Westchester County or Suffolk County would determine that there was anything Guy Bastardi could have done to avoid the car accident, with a vehicle coming at him between 65 and 70 miles per hour in his lane with an intoxicated driver behind the wheel. Clearly, the only reason that Mr. Bastardi was sued in the various cases was an effort by the attorneys to secure a settlement from the insurance carrier for Bastardi. In my opinion, there is no chance that that will happen. As for Warren Hance, he was sued in several of the cases simply due to his status as the owner of the minivan that his sister Diane was driving. However, it does not appear that there is any evidence that he knew that his sister was driving his minivan in an intoxicated condition, except for a brief phone call shortly before the fatal crash when Diane called him by the Tappan Zee Bridge within minutes of the accident. At that time,it apparently was too late to stop her, although it is believed he tried. Further, in my opinion, no jury in the world would find a man who lost his three daughters in the crash responsible for the accident, when he did not know his sister was going to drive drunk and high on marijuana.
As fro the other lawsuits by Jackie Hance, Roseann Guzzo, and to a lesser extent, the Tallaricos, they are all very solid cases on liability (fault). The only question will be the amount of insurance coverage available on the Hance vehicle (and any potential additional coverage under Diane Schuler’s policy), which will certainly fall well short of compensating the victims of this awful accident.
Contact The Westchester County Car Accident Lawyers online or toll free at 888-761-7633 if you are injured in a car accident, bus or truck accident, or any other type of accident for a free consultation with an experienced, aggressive attorney who will fight the insurance companies to maximize your compensation for your injuries, lost earnings, medical expenses and loss of enjoyment of life.