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Settlement reached over ‘97 Springfield Blvd. crash

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A Queens Village couple whose daughter was killed five years ago when a truck ran a partially obscured red light on Springfield Boulevard has dropped a lawsuit against the city and negotiated a cash settlement, their attorney said.

"Nothing is fair," the girl's father, John Simmond, said of the agreement. "Nothing could be fair. It won't bring my daughter back. More than anything, I'm glad that it's over."

Simmond, a State Supreme Court clerk, was driving his 8-year-old daughter Taylor to school on May 27, 1997 along 90th Street when a Mack truck heading south on Springfield Boulevard collided with the passenger side of his car.

A civil jury in State Supreme Court in Jamaica awarded Simmond and his wife Damaris $4.8 million in November for pain and suffering caused by the death of their only child. Because the city was planning to appeal the decision and the lengthy appeals process could have resulted in the award being reduced or the verdict reversed, the couple decided to settle with the city out of court.

Terms of the settlement were not disclosed.

"I had spent the last five years trying to suppress those detailed memories of the incident of that day," said Simmond. "And when it came time for the trial, I had to relive it again. It was very difficult that day. It was difficult for everyone in my family. I'd rather not go through it again."

During the trial, the Simmonds' attorney, Ben Rubinowitz of Manhattan-based firm of Gair, Gair, Conason, Steigman & Mackauf, argued that the city was at fault for installing a traffic signal behind tree branches and for failing to trim those branches after numerous complaints.

Rubinowitz said neighborhood residents had been aware of the danger since the light was installed in the intersection one year earlier. A retired New York City police detective had even complained to the city.

"Nothing was done," Rubinowitz said.

A spokeswoman for the city's corporation counsel, which argued the case on behalf of the city, declined to comment on the case or the settlement.

In awarding $4.8 million to the Simmonds in November, the jury in the case specified that the liability - and thus the award - be split 40 percent to 60 percent between the city and the driver of the truck, Gwan In Yoo. But Rubinowitz said the Simmonds would only be able to collect up to the limit of Yoo's insurance policy, and thus the lion's share of their compensation would come from the settlement with the city.

Neither Rubinowitz nor Simmond would disclose the exact amount of the settlement.

"It was fairly substantial," Simmond said. "I do, having worked in the courts, know about how the city reacts to lawsuits and things like that. And maybe they'll be more careful the next time they install a light or a sign."

Reach reporter Alex Ginsberg by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 157.

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