County board okays $400,000 settlement in Madrid collision lawsuit
Wednesday, September 11, 2019 - 5:28 pm

BY ANDY GARDNER
North Country This Week

CANTON -- The St. Lawrence County legislature on Monday night voted to settle a $400,000 lawsuit brought against the county by a woman who was severely injured in a 2014 collision, and her husband who was also injured in the crash.

The settlement with James Wells and Donna Wells passed 12-3. No votes came from legislators Kevin Acres, R-Madrid; Rita Curran, R-Massena; and Joseph Lightfoot, R-Ogdensburg.

Acres said he brought the resolution forward because "it's my responsibility as Finance Committee chair" to do so, but didn't support its adoption.

"I believe this intersection was well marked and the participants in this were well aware," Acres said prior to the vote.

Legislator David Haggard, D-Potsdam, approved the settlement but said he voted "a begrudging yes."

Both claimants were involved in a collision at the intersection of county routes 14 and 31 in Madrid on March 19, 2014.

As they approached the intersection, they collided with a 2014 Dodge van driven by Matthew Bell. Court documents say Bell failed to yield to the Wellses.

Court documents accuse the county of negligence at the intersection. It says St. Lawrence County didn’t keep vegetation trimmed, which blocked the view of people approaching the intersection. The documents also claim the county didn’t have appropriate signage or a four-way traffic signal.

The documents say Donna Wells “sustained a severe permanent injury to her left arm and shoulder including, but not limited to a disconnected humerus, removal of bicep, seven separate and distinct left arm surgeries including multiple and numerous additional irrigation, debridements, wound vacs; other orthopedic injuries, emotional distress, and loss of consotrium.”

The document says the “severe and permanent” injuries could “include the ultimate amputation of her left arm.”

She was treated for the injuries at University of Vermont hospital in Burlington, Vt. and was afterward released to an inpatient rehabilitation facility, the documents say.

The documents say James Wells as a result of the crash “sustained fractures, emotional distress, aggravation of his post-traumatic stress disorder, and loss of consortium."