Sunday, October 7, 2001

State found liable for $2.7 million in 1994 auto fatality

Failure to address road hazard cited

By Larry Fisher-Hertz
Poughkeepsie Journal

A judge has awarded a Dutchess County man and his daughter $2.7 million as compensation for the death of a woman killed in an auto accident in the Town of Poughkeepsie in 1994.

The award includes $1.25 million to Jessica Bogen, daughter of Mary Bogen, for the loss of ''intellectual, moral and physical guidance'' the mother helped provide.

''Mrs. Bogen was the guiding force of Jessica's moral development as (Mrs. Bogen) and Mr. Bogen were of different religious faiths and agreed Jessica would be raised in Mrs. Bogen's faith,'' Court of Claims Judge Stephen J. Mignano wrote in his decision.

Clifford Bogen, his wife and his daughter, Pawling residents, were traveling in a car on Route 9 near the Spackenkill Road underpass during a rainstorm on Oct. 23, 1994, when their vehicle was struck head-on by a car driven by Scott Johnson of the City of Poughkeepsie.

Mary Bogen and two passengers in Johnson's car -- 7-year-old Sophia Geanes and Debra Royal, 31, both of the City of Poughkeepsie -- were killed in the accident.

Following a trial in the spring of 2000, Court of Claims Judge Andrew P. O'Rourke ruled the state of New York was at fault because authorities had failed to heed warnings about water drainage problems on Route 9 near the accident site.

State undecided on appeal

State officials said they had not decided whether they would appeal.

In addition to the $1.25 million awarded to Jessica for loss of parental nurturing, Judge Mignano also assessed the state $846,755 in loss of Mary Bogen's wages and $626,900 for the loss of Mary Bogen's services to the household.

George Levy of the law firm of Finkelstein Levine Gittelsohn and Partners acted as lead attorney on the case for the Bogen family.

Assistant Attorney General J. Gardner Ryan defended the lawsuit on behalf of the state. The attorney general's office defends all lawsuits against the state.

Paul Larrabee, spokesman for state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, said a hearing has been scheduled for next month to determine the exact amount of the judgment against the state.

''While there has been a judgment set at approximately $2.7 million, that amount is not final,'' Larrabee said. ''Until the hearing in November is concluded, there will be no determination made as to whether there is merit in appealing the case.''