Kin of driver killed in crash with cruiser settle $51 million suit

Amount of tentative deal is undisclosed

April 19, 2006|By JENNIFER MCMENAMIN | JENNIFER MCMENAMIN,SUN REPORTER

The family of a Rosedale woman killed in January when her car was hit by a police cruiser has tentatively settled a multimillion-dollar wrongful death lawsuit filed against the officer and the Baltimore County Police Department, a lawyer representing the victim's children said yesterday.

Bonnie Pappas, 45, was killed Jan. 8 after an officer responding to a 911 call broad-sided her car as she drove across Pulaski Highway near Lorraine Avenue in Rosedale.

Baltimore County prosecutors decided last month not to file criminal charges against Ray Pabon, a patrol officer assigned to the White Marsh precinct who drove the cruiser that struck the woman's car.

Bill Toohey, a spokesman with the county Police Department, said that an internal administrative investigation into the crash is continuing and that he could not discuss whether disciplinary action had been taken against Pabon, who returned to work after recovering from injuries.

The department's criminal investigation concluded that Pabon was driving at least 85.7 mph and without his vehicle's emergency lights or siren activated when the collision occurred, said Ronald W. Parker, an attorney for Pappas' children.

The civil lawsuit, filed March 7 in Baltimore County Circuit Court, sought $1 million in damages for Pappas' estate and $25 million for each of her two children. The terms of the tentative settlement - reached last week - are confidential, Parker said.

The lawsuit alleges that two investigations - one by the county Police Department and one by Pappas' family - indicated that Pabon was speeding on Pulaski Highway without his vehicle's emergency flashing blue lights or siren when he crested a hill and smashed into Pappas' 1997 Mercury Tracer.

Pappas' daughter, Angel Casale, was driving behind her mother. She told investigators - and tape from a nearby liquor store's surveillance camera confirmed, Parker said - that an officer who arrived moments after the crash ran to Pabon's car and turned on the emergency lights.

"We contend that had the officer had his siren and lights on when he was driving, our client would have seen or heard them," Parker said.

Sue A. Schenning, a deputy state's attorney for Baltimore County, said prosecutors decided not to file automobile manslaughter charges against Pabon after determining there was not enough evidence to prove that the officer acted with gross negligence, a legal standard defined in Maryland as the conscious disregard for a high risk to others.

"In a situation like this, where the officer was responding to a call of domestic violence, that would mitigate the situation and prevent us from proving the highest level of negligence that we would need to prove," she said.

Pappas, a grandmother, worked as an account executive at the Texaco terminal in Baltimore.

Sun reporter Nick Shields contributed to this article.

jennifer.mcmenamin @baltsun.com

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