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Filing: Suit to target Suffolk in fatal Quogue crash

The scene of a crash on Montauk Highway

The scene of a crash on Montauk Highway in Quogue that killed five, including two sons of a Manhasset man who intends to sue Suffolk County over the July collision, according to a legal filing. Credit: James Carbone

The father of two Uber passengers from Manhasset, who died this summer in a head-on wreck in Quogue that also killed three others, plans to sue Suffolk County for up to $40 million, according to a legal filing.

The litigation blames the county for poor roadway design and a lack of necessary maintenance on a section of roadway allegedly known for crashes. The papers, filed by the law firm Sullivan Papain Block McGrath Coffinas & Cannavo of Garden City, are what is known as a notice of claim, the first step required before suing the government.

Spanning 10 pages, the legal filing is dated earlier this month and also includes the police report. As plaintiff, James Patrick Farrell Sr., cites the injuries, suffering, loss and funeral costs for his sons, James Patrick Farrell Jr., 25, and Michael O’Brien Farrell, 20.

Both men died in the crash about 11:15 p.m. on July 24 when a Nissan Maxima driven by Justin B. Mendez, 22, of Shirley, crossed the centerline along a curve and hit the Uber, a Toyota Prius, head on.

"For years the COUNTY OF SUFFOLK and its Engineering Department have not been proactive in addressing the deplorable conditions of their roadways, especially Montauk Highway," the filing reads. "The COUNTY OF SUFFOLK contends that its roads are ‘not that bad’ while Suffolk County residents know better. This is especially true on Montauk Highway which has been consistently neglected for years with respect to its lack of engineering review and modernization."

Among other claims, the papers say the county failed to install a barrier, known as a "jersey barrier," between each side of traffic, that allegedly could have prevented the sort of crossover that occurred in the crash; lessen the degree of the curve along that stretch of roadway; and include a "safe zone" for drivers to pull over. The papers also say the county should have installed adequate lights, warnings and signs.

Mendez, Farhan Zahid, 32, the Uber driver and a married Bay Shore father of three, as well as another of his passengers, Ryan J. Kiess, 25, of Manhasset, were also killed in the crash, as the Prius headed east on County Road 80 in Quogue, also called Montauk Highway. Brianna M. Maglio, 22, a passenger in the Uber was the crash's sole survivor.

The Quogue police chief has said that Mendez was speeding at least 55 mph in a 40 mph zone. A cop had tried to pull him over moments before the crash, according to the chief.

A GoFundMe set up for the Uber driver's family has raised $468,210 from 5,700 donors, according to the website.

Through one of his attorneys, Robert G. Sullivan, Farrell declined to comment.

Kurt Kiess, father of Ryan Kiess, 25, said he agreed with the Farrell family’s allegations in the litigation. He said that Maglio remains hospitalized in critical condition.

The families of the others could not be immediately reached for comment.

An email to the Suffolk County executive's office Tuesday morning was not immediately answered.

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