Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Briefly... CITY/REGION

Man paralyzed in crash wins record damages

Four years after a faulty seat belt left him with debilitating injuries, Carlos Martinez, 57, has found justice.

A jury on Thursday awarded Martinez $55.3 million in damages after a 2010 car crash left him paralyzed from the neck down, said his attorney, Stewart Eisenberg.

"Through this verdict, we are hoping to prevent such unnecessary and devastating injuries from happening to others," Eisenberg said.

Martinez, of York, was driving to work on a sunny Saturday that May when the rear tire of his 1999 Acura Integra blew out - he had unwittingly run over a nail - according to Eisenberg. As the Integra skidded off the road and flipped over, Martinez's seat belt failed to secure him in his seat, and he hit his head on the car's ceiling, causing an injury that left him a quadriplegic.

In investigating the incident, Eisenberg discovered that Honda, Acura's owner, allegedly had conducted a safety test of that model during which a crash-test dummy hit its head similarly. But the manufacturer chose to ignore the defect, according to the attorney.

"[Honda] didn't do anything about it, and just passed it through," Eisenberg said. "I think the jury was angry about that - that they knew risk existed, but just let it ride."

The damages awarded to Martinez and his family are the largest in an automotive-defect lawsuit in state history, according to Eisenberg.

Cops probe Tioga shooting

Police last night were scouring the city for a brazen gunman who fired three shots into a crowded vehicle yesterday morning, killing its driver.

The victim, 24, was slumped behind the wheel of a 1994 Mercury Grand Marquis when officers found him at 2:15 a.m. on Germantown Avenue near Broad Street in Tioga, Chief Inspector Scott Small said.

The officers removed him from the bullet-perforated car, which was still running when they arrived, and rushed him to Temple University Hospital. Two hours later, he died. He had been shot at least twice in his torso, Small said.

The car's two passengers were being questioned yesterday by Homicide Unit detectives, as was a third witness - a woman whose parked Toyota was struck by the Mercury in the wake of the shooting, Small said.

Ballistic evidence on the scene indicated that the shooter fired at least three shots at point-blank range through the driver's-side window, Small said.

It was unclear last night what sparked the shooting. The suspect was described as a man wearing a dark hooded sweatshirt, who fled on foot on nearby Butler Street, Small said.

- Vinny Vella

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