A $1.6M Payout for Injured Mom

Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

October 18, 2004

Newburgh- The city's insurance carrier agreed to pay $1.6 million to a young mother who was badly injured in a collision with a police vehicle four years ago.

Diana Bell, 24, can no longer work. She can't retain conversations. And she can't regain the brain function she lost after her car and then-Officer Robert Harris' Chevy Blazer collided on Nov. 19, 2000 at the intersection of Broadway and West Street. Harris resigned last year for reasons unrelated to the crash.

Bell was on her way home from Johnny D's Diner in New Windsor, where she was a waitress with a photographic memory who could deliver orders to her tables without having to write them down first, said her lawyer, Elliot Tetenbaum of Newburgh.

Now, he said, "She's able to raise her daughter as well as someone can who has a brain injury, as best as someone can who can't remember things that were said to her 15 minutes ago. She can't do gainful employment of any kind."

Bell now lives in Lakeland, Fla., with her daughter and her husband.

Through Tetenbaum, she declined to discuss the accident and the settlement.

Bell 's lawsuit against the city was settled as it was heading to trial last month before acting state Supreme Court Justice Elaine Slobod in Goshen, according to court records. Tetenbaum received a settlement check on Oct. 8.

A lawyer for the city couldn't be reached for comment on the settlement.

Harris, who joined the Newburgh Police Department in 1995, was on his way to a call about a disorderly person in the emergency room at St. Luke's Hospital, several blocks east. His lights were strobing and his sirens were blaring.

The impact of the collision shook buildings in the area, according to witnesses.

The impact also fractured Bell 's pelvis, collapsed one of her lungs and damaged her vertebrae and one of her arms. Mobile Life Support Services took her to Downing Park, and from there, a helicopter flew her to Westchester Medical Center. She was in a coma.

Police records show that the police department's Accident Review Board said Harris was partly responsible for the crash and the accident was "preventable" on Harris' part.

The review board also determined Harris had a partially obstructed view, caused by a gas station at the corner.

The state police reconstruction expert also found that Bell 's view was partly obstructed, and that she failed to yield the right of way to an emergency vehicle operating its lights and sirens. Both vehicles braked before the collision.

In June 2003, New Windsor police arrested Harris after he fired his gun at his wife in their home at Silver Stream Trailer Park. He resigned from the department a few months later and pleaded guilty to felony reckless endangerment in Orange County Court.

* Reprinted with permission of The Times Herald-Record

Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.