$2.5M Settlement Reached in Vermont Fatal Accident

January 5, 2009

A settlement has been reached in a fatal crash in Westmore that killed two teenagers five years ago and pitted the parents of the driver and the teens against each other.

The settlement amount was not disclosed in federal court papers Wednesday, but attorneys for both parties have confirmed that the figure was near the $2.5 million liability limit included in the car insurance policy.

“My client is very pleased that the matter has finally been settled and that we have avoided the necessity of a trial,” said Marc Heath, a Burlington attorney for Julie Jensen of Maryland and her son Charles Meyer, the driver of the car who survived the crash. Jensen, a wealthy attorney and philanthropist, and Meyer had a summer home in Brownington at the time of the crash.

The crash, which happened near Lake Willoughby, killed Norman Woolard, 16, and Philip Leno, 17, in Aug. 24, 2004.

The parents of the deceased teens claimed that Jensen was partly to blame because she bought Meyer, then 14, a high-performance car and let him drive it without a driver’s license.

The lawsuit claimed that Meyer drove recklessly, causing the car to careen into a rock ledge on Route 5A.

In 2006, Meyer and his mother sued the parents of the deceased teens saying they have been the subject of critical public sentiment and that the two other teenagers were partly responsible for their deaths. The lawsuit claimed Meyer was only driving because he believed that the two other teenagers had consumed marijuana.

The families of Woolard and Leno countersued and disputed the marijuana allegation but U.S. District Court Judge William Sessions ruled they could not seek punitive damages against Jensen.

The decision to settle the case was difficult for Woolard’s mother, Elaine Cashin, her lawyer said.

“We settled it because you never know what a jury is going to do,” attorney Vincent Illuzzi said. “By no means does this erase or make up for what happened to the two boys, or their families or the community at large. The families are going to have to live with this forever.”

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