Pa. Town’s Insurer Pays to Settle ‘Officer NASCAR’ Suit

September 25, 2005

The insurance carrier for the city of Erie, Pa. will pay $600,000 to the parents of a woman left brain damaged by a car crash involving a police officer whose driving earned him the nickname “NASCAR” among his peers.

Alan Natalie, the attorney for Jennifer George, 30, of Erie, and her parents, Raymond and Susan, said the settlement was driven largely by a state law that caps damages in motor-vehicle accidents involving municipal employees at $500,000.

The Georges sued last year over the April 13, 2001, crash involving their daughter, who was driving drunk at the time, and Erie police officer Greg DiLoreto. DiLoreto resigned from the force in October 2001 after being found guilty of speeding in the crash.

Erie police acknowledged that DiLoreto had a history of driving fast and was driving at least 38 mph in a 25-mph zone on his way to a fight call. Natalie alleged he was traveling much faster.

“A police officer can go 63 miles per hour in a 25 mile-per-hour zone even after having been disciplined for the same, and leave this tragedy in his wake, and the law says the most any party can recover from motor vehicle liability is $500,000,” Natalie said.

Natalie tried to get around the $500,000 cap by filing the lawsuit in U.S. District Court and arguing that Jennifer George’s rights were violated because of a lack of police oversight of DiLoreto.

When it became apparent during settlement talks last week that a federal judge was going to send the suit back to county court, making it subject to the cap, Natalie accepted the $600,000 settlement offer.

Jennifer George still lives in a long-term care facility. Although she can now speak and walk, she still requires assisted living, Natalie said. The settlement will cover her medical bills so far, with little left over for her future care, he said.

Jennifer George’s blood-alcohol content was 0.169 percent — more than the state’s 0.1 percent limit for drivers at the time of the accident — and more than double the state’s current limit of 0.08 percent. Police didn’t charge her because she was critically injured in the crash.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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