The mother and two children of a Cottage Grove woman killed by a drunken driver in 2012 will each receive slightly more than $60,000 after settling a wrongful death lawsuit filed against the driver and two restaurants that allegedly served him alcohol on the night of the wreck.
Documents filed in recent weeks in Lane County Circuit Court show that Teresa M. Grondona's heirs agreed to settle the suit for a total of $305,000, to compensate them for the loss of their loved one.
Under an agreement with the plaintiffs, more than $109,000 of that sum will be paid to Veralrud & Fowler, the Eugene law firm that represented the family. Nearly $15,000 will be used to refund Grondona's insurance company for medical, burial and memorial expenses it previously paid on her behalf, and $288 will pay off a credit card bill.
That leaves $180,512 to be split evenly among Grondona's mother, Linda Flagg, and her two children, Zackeri and Tashina Carnes.
"We thought the settlement was fair," attorney Greg Veralrud said.
Grondona, 40, died April 8, 2012, while driving to her job at a Cottage Grove convenience store. Her car was struck on Highway 99 North by an oncoming pickup that drifted into her lane.
The pickup's driver, Jeremy Christopher Henry, is now serving a 10-year sentence for first-degree manslaughter and driving under the influence. He had a blood alcohol content of approximately 0.35 percent after the wreck, more than four times the level at which a person is automatically presumed to be too drunk to drive.
In addition to Henry, the lawsuit named as defendants the Szechuan Chinese Restaurant and Great Western Pub, two Cottage Grove restaurants. The suit claimed Henry was drinking at both places in the hours before the crash and that he was served despite being visibly intoxicated.
Henry's auto insurance provider is paying $50,000 of the settlement, while the two restaurants between them are paying approximately $250,000. A third Cottage Grove restaurant, El Tapatio Mexican Restaurant, will pay approximately $5,000 of the total.
Grondona's family did not sue El Tapatio, but Great Western Pub filed a separate lawsuit claiming that Henry had consumed alcohol at the Mexican restaurant prior to the fatal crash.
State police found no evidence that Henry had been at El Tapatio on the night of the wreck, court records show.
El Tapatio's attorney, Dan Hasson of Portland, said his client agreed to pay what amounted to approximately 1.6 percent of the total settlement in order to resolve the case for less than it would have cost to take it to trial.
Dave Conrad, owner of the Great Western Pub, declined to comment on the settlement. Tom Chiu, manager of the Szechuan Chinese Restaurant, did not return a telephone message. He previously told The Register-Guard that Henry had only one drink at his restaurant and was not visibly intoxicated.
In court documents, representatives of the two restaurants named in the family's lawsuit argued that Henry did not become drunk at their businesses.
Henry admitted at his trial that he had consumed a six-pack of 16-ounce beers and two bottles of hard lemonade in addition to an unspecified number of drinks at the restaurants.
Veralrud wrote in court documents that he does not believe that the family could receive additional compensation directly from the imprisoned Henry, and that it would be "difficult if not impossible" to measure how much pain and suffering Grondona endured during the brief period between the wreck and her death.
The family's original lawsuit sought $3.5 million in damages for Grondona's pain and suffering; $1 million for the loss of income she would have earned had she not died; and $4.5 million for what's known as noneconomic damages, to compensate the family for losing a loved one.
Follow Jack on Twitter @JackMoranRG . Email firstname.lastname@example.org .