By KEITH EDDINGS
THE JOURNAL NEWS
(Original publication: February 3, 2005)
A 75-year-old volunteer firefighter who lost five teeth after he was hit by a car driven by a Westchester County police officer while directing traffic around an accident four years ago has agreed to take $12,000 from the county to drop his lawsuit against the officer.
Harry Karagozian, who is now 79, was directing traffic on the Taconic State Parkway in Yorktown on March 10, 2001, when Officer Marcelo Jimenez skidded on ice as he pulled up and knocked Karagozian to the ground.
Five of Karagozian’s teeth were fractured and were replaced with implants. His right shoulder was injured, and he lost some hearing in his left ear. The accident aggravated the degenerative joint disease he suffers in his knees.
County police do not patrol the Taconic, but Jimenez drove to the accident when another officer told him that his wife was involved, raising questions about the county’s liability.
Deputy County Attorney Lori Alesio would not say how the county was able to settle the suit for a relatively small amount considering the injuries Karagozian suffered. But lawyers for the county argued that since Jimenez had permission from his department to go to the accident, he was acting within his duties as a county officer, which would have made it easier to have the suit tossed out on technicalities.
Nevertheless, County Attorney Charlene Indelicato advised the county contracts board in a recent memo to settle the suit “based on the plaintiff’s age, injuries and the facts of the accident.”
The county will pay the $12,000 settlement because Jimenez had permission to go to the accident, Alesio said.
Karagozian also sued Westchester County in state Supreme Court, but that suit was dismissed, Alesio said.
Karagozian, a volunteer firefighter for the Yorktown Heights Fire Department, did not return a phone call yesterday. His lawyer, Albert Durante, would not comment on the settlement.