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Suffolk settles suit by motorist for $4.9 million

Suffolk County has tentatively agreed to pay $4.9 million to settle a lawsuit with Corinne Bednoski, of Peconic, who was severely injured when her car ran off a county road in 2006 and hit an unprotected drainage pipe in a median ditch.

The county legislature’s budget and finance committee voted to authorize $3 million in borrowing to pay the county’s share of the settlement. An outside insurer will pick up the remaining $1.9 million of the award. The full legislature is expected to vote on the settlement Tuesday in Riverhead.

According to court papers, Bednoski, now 71, was injured on Nov. 11, 2006 when she was lawfully driving her vehicle on County Road 48 and was “caused to drive” into a median ditch just before turning onto Henry’s Lane.

Her lawsuit said she “struck a cement drainage pipe, which was not protected by sign or barrier.”

The suit says Bednoski suffered serious and permanent injuries which have prevented her from resuming normal duties and activities and caused her to suffer pain, shock and mental anguish.

Joseph Dell, Bednoski’s attorney, said the county “never did a proper traffic study of the risk” involving the roadway.

“My client is a terrific lady and I hope the settlement will ease her significant pain. She’s gone though in 23 separate surgeries,” Dell said.

County attorney Dennis Brown said the county initially fought the lawsuit, arguing that the county had no liability because it had municipal immunity because the road was designed safely.

Settlement talks occurred after the Appellate Division denied the county’s motion for summary judgment, ruling there were issues of fact that needed to be litigated.

The settlement is the second major legal loss for Suffolk in recent weeks.

Last month, the county agreed to $7.5 million settlement in a car crash in which a Stony Brook University student was killed when a county police car collided with her at an unlit intersection on RTE. 347 during superstorm Sandy

Brown could not say whether the two settlements will raise county insurance rates. Under Suffolk’s self-insurance policy, the county pays the first $3 million of any award, and the insurance company pays the rest if the award is higher.

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