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August 6, 2019
By John Nickerson, Stamford Advocate, STAMFORD, CT (August 5, 2019) — The family of a Stamford woman killed by a semitractor-trailer in Greenwich will receive a $18.75 million settlement from the truck’s company.
Stamford resident Cristina Vomoca, left, with her son Oliver, and friend Maiko Kobayashi. Vomoca was hit by a truck in Greenwich in 2016 and died eight days later. Her family was awarded $18.75 million for her death.
Rather than allow a civil jury to come up with an even larger award, a New Jersey trucking company on Friday agreed to give $18.75 million to the family of a Stamford woman killed in 2016 when a semitractor-trailer allegedly ran a red light and slammed into the woman’s car off Exit 3 in Greenwich, causing her death.
The settlement was agreed to about 24 hours after a Stamford jury was handed the case to decide following five days of testimony to determine whether ShopRite truck driver Jeffrey Bodnar was negligent in the death of 38-year-old Stamford resident Cristina Vomoca.
While excusing the jury — before the six-person panel had a chance to come up with what might have been an even larger award — Judge Robert Genuario thanked them for their service and said that without them, a settlement between the parties would never have been reached.
The family’s lawyer on the case, Angelo Ziotas, of Stamford’s Silver Golub & Teitell law firm, said the agreement represents one of the largest wrongful death settlements in state history.
During closing arguments on Thursday morning, Ziotas asked the jury to award Vomoca’s domestic partner Paul Wilson and her six-year-old son Oliver up to $47 million in the case. Ziotas said the settlement amount should be for the compensatory damages, including for every year Vocomo would not get to live.
Ziotas said the case was one that he had been trying to settle with Transervice Lease Corporation, Bodnar, Wakefern Food Corp and ShopRite Supermarket for years.
“It took this jury sitting through two weeks of trial, listening to how clear the evidence was in order to have it resolved in this way,” Ziotas said Friday. “What you hope for in this context is — we are all on Interstate 95 with truck drivers and tractor-trailers all the time. The problem is, like anything else, when you are doing something that dangerous, there is a small percentage of drivers who are not being as careful as they should be. So I think it is important that everyone be reminded not to take these risks.”
Christopher Sanetti, who represented Transervice Lease Corporation in the case, declined to comment after walking out into the sixth floor hallway. Bodnar, a New Jersey resident who is facing criminal charges of manslaughter and first-degree assault, also declined to comment after leaving the courtroom with his wife.
“While no amount of money can ever make the victim’s family whole, this last-minute settlement certainly reflects the feelings of contrition and empathy that Mr. Bodnar has always felt from day one,” said Mark Sherman, Bodnar’s criminal defense attorney. “This was always an accident that needed to be resolved in the civil system. Hopefully, this settlement will further a fair resolution for all of the parties involved in the manslaughter trial.”
When Bodnar testified at the two-week trial, he refused to answer any questions by asserting his Fifth Amendment right against self incrimination.
According to Bodnar’s arrest affidavit, he was driving a ShopRite truck on the afternoon of Nov. 19, 2016. There was heavy traffic on I-95 following another accident and police said he exited the highway at Arch Street with the intention of re-entering I-95 on the entrance ramp. But the big rig slammed into Vomoca’s Maserati at the intersection of Arch Street and the I-95 off-ramp at Exit 3. Firefighters had to cut through the roof of the vehicle to extricate Vocomo, who died from her injuries.
Vomoca’s passenger Maiko Kobayashi, 33, suffered significant injuries. The two women were working at the Hopscotch hair salon in Greenwich and were on their way home after work.
According to police, the truck driver failed to stop for a red light at the bottom of the ramp and traveled across Arch Street, causing the collision with the passenger vehicle.
When the judge asked Vomoca’s partner if he thought the settlement was fair and equitable, Wilson replied, “Yes.”
Genuario said he was happy the case was resolved.
“I can’t imagine the stress and difficulties and emotions at the loss of this incident,” the judge said. “And I know that no amount of dollars can make the plaintiff and decedent’s family whole in this situation. I wish you Mr. Wilson, Ms. Vomoica’s family and Oliver the best of luck in the future and you experience only good things from here on in.”