Lawsuits stemming from a deadly crash at the base of Avon Mountain in Connecticut last July have led to an unlikely alliance between the victims and the owner of the trucking company at the center of the litigation.
To successfully fight criminal charges alleging that he tried to reinstate insurance coverage hours after the crash, David Wilcox, the former owner of American Crushing & Recycling, will need a court to find the truck to have had liability insurance coverage the morning of the accident.
The injured and the families of the four motorists who were killed in the crash also will need a court to find that the truck was covered that morning to win compensation from the insurer.
Acadia Insurance of Westbrook, Maine, has sued, claiming that Wilcox suspended liability coverage on his trucks in January 2005, cashed a $40,000 refund check and did not reinstate coverage.
The crash on July 29 was caused by an out-of-control dump truck owned by American Crushing & Recycling. The truck barreled down the mountain and smashed into vehicles waiting at a traffic signal.
Wilcox and his wife, Donna, have pleaded not guilty to attempted insurance fraud, attempted first-degree larceny and conspiracy to commit first-degree larceny.
Each side of the dispute over insurance coverage will say certificates issued last spring on behalf of American Crushing & Recycling appear to show that the trucks were properly insured.
Independent experts say the certificates do not show the trucks were insured.
Michael Stratton, a New Haven lawyer representing Ellen Stotler, whose husband, Chip, was killed in the crash, said the certificates, while not conclusive, “create a strong inference there is insurance.”
The certificates indicate that Wilcox’s employees “are covered under all circumstances if they’re in the course of business for Wilcox, he said. It doesn’t matter whether the truck or auto is on the policy or not.”
Peter Kochenburger, executive director of the Insurance Law Center at the University of Connecticut School of Law, said a certificate of insurance is not a binder.
“Typically, it does not create a legal obligation between an insurance company and a policyholder,” he said.
The continued issuing of the certificates could have led American Crushing’s principals to believe they had insurance, argues John F. McKenna, a lawyer who represents Wilcox.
American Crushing typically suspended liability and other coverage when the trucks were not to be used, usually during the winter, he said. The company had a practice of reinstating the insurance when the trucks went back on the road, he said.
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