Couple injured in accident with fire chief may receive $58,000

Carson City will decide Thursday whether to pay a Lake Tahoe couple $58,000 for injuries sustained in a collision with a city fire department vehicle in 2000.

Dan Dean and Madlyn Denny sued the city in March 2002 charging the fire department acted negligently when responding to a call.

After engaging in court arbitration, Carson City circuit court arbitrator Stephen Wassner decided in favor of the Dennys on their negligence claims against the city, the fire department and the driver, Battalion Chief Mark Bowers.

Bowers, driving a city-owned Chevrolet Suburban used by battalion chiefs June 26, 2000, was responding to an 11:06 a.m. fire alarm in the 3000 block of College Parkway when his SUV collided with a sedan driven by the Dennys.

According to reports, Bowers was driving east on College Parkway creeping into the intersection of Carson Street when he struck the sedan.

A third car, a Ford Explorer driven by Pierce Flemming was southbound on Highway 395. In an effort to avoid the accident, the driver went off the road and into a traffic signal control box, sheering it off at the ground.

Wassner found Bowers did not use "due care," as required by state law, as he approached the intersection because "he could not see any of the traffic in those two lanes when he proceeded to drive through the remaining portion of the intersection," he said.

Bowers, who was shaken by the accident, got out of his vehicle and began giving first aid to the Dennys. He was later taken to the hospital with minor injuries. Accompanying fire vehicles continued to the fire alarm after calling for ambulance service.

The intersection is know to be dangerous to fire vehicles because of the limited visibility, officials said at the time of the accident.

Madlyn Denny, now 76, sustained two fractures to her sternum, rib fractures and separations, metal and glass in her chest and a bruised lung and a tear in her knee tissue. She was awarded $40,000 in damages, the most allowed under the state arbitration program.

"She's been affected pretty substantially," said the Dennys' attorney Karen Winters of Minden.

Her husband, Dan Denny, now 79, received bruises and cuts to his leg and has recovered, Winters said. Both were wearing seat belts.

Madlyn Denny claimed to have accrued $68,000 in medical expenses and spent a week in the hospital, Winters said. Dan Denny spent $2,539 on medical costs. Once they settle the claim against Carson City, the couple intends to file a lawsuit against their underinsured motorist coverage, said Melanie Bruketta, of the Carson City District Attorney's Office.

If supervisors agree to settle the case for $58,000 the payment would be made from the city's Insurance Claims Payment fund.


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