$500K settlement reached in Sutersville teenager's death
Westmoreland County and its insurer will split the cost of a $500,000 settlement to the estate of a Sutersville teenager, who died in an automobile accident in 2010.
Commissioners voted Thursday morning to settle the case filed by Tonya Lesniak, whose daughter, Taylor Lynne Frohnhofer, 16, died in the Nov. 27, 2010, accident on Clay Pike Road in Sewickley Township.
Frohnhofer was a passenger in a car driven by Jorden King of Sutersville, who was 16 at the time. King was speeding when his car left the road while rounding a curve. The vehicle struck a stone wall, became airborne and hit a tree.
Frohnhofer, who was not wearing a seat belt, was ejected from the car and died of head injuries.
Last year, King pleaded guilty in juvenile court to a misdemeanor charge of involuntary manslaughter, as well as summary traffic violations.
Lesniak filed paperwork indicating her intent to sue King and the county last November.
The county was named in the case because Clay Pike is a county road, said solicitor Mark Gesalman.
Prior to the accident, county engineers had determined the speed limit on the road should be lowered. However, when road crews installed the new speed limit sign, they mistakenly placed it too close to the curve, Gesalman said.
The improperly placed sign, which has been corrected, became a point in the criminal case against King and was the basis for the county's involvement in the civil action, he said.
Gesalman said after the civil action was filed, the county's insurance company decided to settle the case for $500,000 — the maximum allowed against a municipal government by law.
Gesalman said under Pennsylvania tort law at the time of the accident, any party found negligent in a lawsuit would be required to pay the full amount of damages if the other parties did not have the means to pay their share.
That made it likely that the county would have to pay $500,000 whether they settled or took the case to a jury, Gesalman said.
“The determination was made that we would simply be wasting county money (to defend the suit),” he said.
The county's insurer will pay $250,000 of the settlement, while the county will pay $250,000 — the amount of its self-insured reserve, similar to a deductible.
The county will make its payments in two installments, the first now and the second before Jan. 31, 2014.
Charles Evans, of Meyers Evans & Associates in Pittsburgh, who represents Frohnhofer's estate, said the county's action ends the case since King's insurance company offered to settle for $50,000 — the maximum amount in his policy.
Jennifer Reeger is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6155 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Latrobe ear-biting suspect loses bid for reduced bail
- Request for documents delays Speedway hearing in Unity
- Youngwood aims to reduce amount that ends up in sewage treatment facility
- Westmoreland County tourism grants promote banana splits, breweries, trolley, railroad
- Foreign clergy mitigate shortage of priests in Diocese of Greensburg
- Blaze guts South Greensburg home, kills 2 dogs
- Forbes: Night at the Races planned at sportsmen’s club
- Hempfield infant fights rare disease
- Laurel Mountain Ski Resort discusses planned revival
- Ligonier doctor’s appeal to practice rejected
- Mt. Pleasant known for backing military, glass industries, health care