Minn. State University Agrees to $5.25 Million Settlement

September 18, 2006

Minnesota State University, Mankato,and an insurance company have agreed to a $5.25 million settlement stemming from a crash that killed three students and injured four other students last year in Michigan.

Attorney Nick Frentz, who represents the family of one of the students who died and another who was injured, said the school and Great Lakes Reinsurance agreed to pay a total of $5.25 million.

The settlement came after a nine-hour mediation session involving 20 lawyers and several family members of the students who died. Two injured students were included in the settlement, while two others were not part of it.

The accident happened May 17, 2005, as a team of students traveled to Detroit in a university van for a college engineering competition.

Frentz said the settlement was positive for both the families and the university, and that the families appreciated how the university handled the case.

How the money will be distributed among the victims and families wasn’t disclosed. Because state law limits the school’s liability to $1 million, it’s likely that Great Lakes Reinsurance provided most of the money to cover the settlement, Frentz said.

Frentz represented the family of Chad Wilson, who was killed in the crash, and Benjamin Gruenzer, who was seriously injured. The families of Wesley Loutsch and Jamie Schlachter, the two remaining students killed, and Scott Rector, who was also seriously injured, were represented by other law firms.

Rector was driving the university van that crossed a median on Interstate 94 in Chickaming Township, Mich., and crashed head-on with two semis.

Fifteen students and one faculty member were traveling to Detroit to compete in the national Society of Automotive Engineers Formula Series. The students had built a race car for the event, which was being towed in a trailer behind the van Rector was driving. Another van was following Rector, and the students in it saw the deadly crash.

“Minnesota State University and Minnesota State Colleges and Universities are pleased to have arrived at an amicable agreement with the five plaintiffs involved in this settlement,” MnSCU spokeswoman Linda Kohl said in a prepared statement.

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