Jeannette motorcyclist, wife suing judge he struck
A Jeannette motorcyclist who admitted he was drunk when his Harley-Davidson crashed into a car driven by Westmoreland Judge Debra Pezze almost two years ago is suing her, seeking in excess of $60,000 in damages.
The motorcyclist, Matthew W. Matis, 49, of 36 Spanish Villa Drive, and his wife, Chantel, filed the civil damage lawsuit in Common Pleas Court Wednesday.
On March 8, 2011, Matis was driving his motorcycle east in the left — or fast lane — of College Avenue just before 7 p.m. when Pezze allegedly backed out of a driveway and into his path.
Pezze told city police at the time that she backed out “after seeing the roadway was clear” and began to pull forward in her 2004 Infiniti sedan when she was struck from behind by the motorcycle.
However, Matis claims in the lawsuit that Pezze was negligent and caused the accident.
“After backing into the fast lane of College Avenue, (Pezze) brought her vehicle to a complete stop in the fast lane of College Avenue so she could shift from reverse to drive, thus creating an unsafe obstruction for eastbound traffic on College Avenue,” the five-page lawsuit alleges.
Matis alleges in the lawsuit that Pezze violated a traffic code regarding limitations on backing that reads “No driver shall back a vehicle unless movement can be made with safety and without interfering with other traffic and then only after yielding the right of way to moving traffic and pedestrians.”
“Any motorcyclist operating a motorcycle in a reasonable manner in the position of Matthew Matis at the time the defendant backed her car into the fast lane of College Avenue would have collided with defendant's car,” the lawsuit states.
Matis alleges there was insufficient time for any motorcyclist to react or take any evasive measures to avoid a collision.
Pezze said Wednesday that she had not received a copy of the lawsuit, but maintained that she was not at fault in the accident.
She noted that she had commented after the accident that “a drunken driver” ran into the back of her vehicle.
City police investigated the accident and did not charge Pezze, but Matis was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol. Police said he had a blood-alcohol level of .112 percent at the time.
A driver with a 0.08 percent BAC is considered legally intoxicated in Pennsylvania.
Matis pleaded guilty in May to driving under the influence of alcohol before Judge Rita Hathaway and served 48 hours in jail as a first-time offender, had his driving privileges suspended for 12 months and was ordered to attend alcohol highway safety school.
Police reported at the time that Matis' motorcycle left 110-foot-long skid marks.
Matis is seeking in excess of $30,000 in damages for multiple injuries he claims he suffered including five surgeries on shattered right leg bones, scars, permanent disability,and loss of past and future income.
He said in the lawsuit that he has been unable to return to his job as an iron worker since the crash.
Chantal Matis is seeking another $30,000 for loss of consortium.
Paul Peirce is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-850-2860 or firstname.lastname@example.org.