$10 million to 2011 accident victim topped list of DRPA payouts

Posted: January 24, 2013

The Delaware River Port Authority paid $10 million to a traffic-accident victim in 2011 in a settlement highlighted this month in an audit of the DRPA.

The payment, to a man seriously injured when his pickup was struck by a truck driven by a DRPA employee, was by far the most given out during the period between 2003 and 2012 covered by the audit.

The $10 million insurance settlement resulted from a lawsuit brought by Gary Pettet, a 55-year-old cement mason from Berlin, Camden County. He was injured in 2007 when the truck he was driving was struck by a PATCO truck whose driver ran a red light at the base of the Ben Franklin Bridge in Philadelphia.

PATCO, the commuter rail line, is a subsidiary of the DRPA. The $10 million settlement was reached just after the start of a trial of the lawsuit in August 2011.

A juror fainted while listening to grisly medical details of Pettet's injury, which left him with rotting flesh and bone after 12 operations. Doctors had to amputate one of his legs.

After the juror, a teacher from Chestnut Hill, was resuscitated, PATCO's lawyer quickly agreed to the $10 million settlement, although the sides had been millions of dollars apart earlier.

That settlement accounted for more than half the settlements and judgments paid for claims against the DRPA, PATCO, and their insurance carriers during the 10-year period: They paid out $17.6 million in 46 cases, the audit said. PATCO incurred $12.4 million of the payments, while the DRPA incurred $5.2 million.

Claims related to agency employees and police officers accounted for $14.1 million of the total, and the audit found that claims of "slip and fall" incidents in PATCO stations and trains were common.

Contact Paul Nussbaum at 215-854-4587 or pnussbaum@phillynews.com.

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