Borough settles lawsuit

Voznesenka man wins $1.5 million

Posted: Thursday, August 30, 2001

A Voznesenka man has reached a $1.5 million settlement in a lawsuit stemming from paralysis suffered after he drove his 4-wheeler into a cable stretched across a road near the East End Road village.

The settlement between plaintiff Kiril Polushkin and defendants Troy Jones and the Kenai Peninsula Borough was reached last week just days before the case was to go to trial.

Polushkin, now 34, was riding his four-wheeler on a gravel-pit access road off Eagle Lake Road when he collided with the cable on Aug. 17, 1998. It was hours before anyone found Polushkin, and by the time he arrived at South Peninsula Hospital, he was hemorrhaging from internal injuries. In 25 minutes, he required 11 units of blood and a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter had to be sent to the central peninsula to get more blood. Though he survived, Polushkin was paralyzed from the waist down and has spent recent years in and out of the hospital.

Lawyers for Polushkin declined to talk about the case, but allegations were that the Kenai Peninsula Borough and Jones, a contractor who erected the cable across the road, failed to mark the obstruction well enough, if at all, and were liable for Polushkin's injuries.

The road had been constructed in 1993 to allow the borough access to a gravel pit. Jones had contracted with the borough to excavate gravel from the pit.

Kenai Superior Court Judge Jonathan Link ruled Aug. 20 that the road was not a dedicated public road. Since it was not a public road, the borough was not required to post signs and take other precautions. As the contractor, Jones was only required to "act as a reasonable man under like or similar circumstances."

Link's ruling favored the defendants, particularly the borough, but the risk of going to trial was more than Jones, who had limited insurance coverage, was willing to take, his attorney, Brewster Jamieson, said Wednesday.

The plaintiffs were alleging liability at $5 million to $7 million.

Borough Attorney Colette Thompson said the borough agreed to pay $100,000 of the settlement merely to avoid the financial risk of going to court.

"Troy Jones was essentially blackmailed into the settlement by the system," Jamieson said. "He is not admitting any liability. He just could not afford to take that risk."

Jones contended the cable crossing the road was well marked with neon yellow and black tape and had orange newspaper wrappers hanging from the cable. Though there was a large gate with "no trespassing" signage at the entrance to the gravel pit, people allegedly drove around the gate, so Jones apparently put up the cable farther down the road because of several cases of vandalism to his equipment in the gravel pit.

"He honestly believed no one would be unable to see the cable gate with all the marking on it," Jamieson said.

Some factors that may have been considered if the case had gone to court included the allegation that Polushkin had difficulty seeing in low-light situations. But Polushkin contended that the cable had not been marked and markings were only added after the accident occurred.

Also listed as plaintiffs in the case are Polushkin's former wife and five children ranging in age from seven to 14.

Jamieson said he sympathizes with Polushkin's medical condition, but the case is an example of unwarranted settlements in the country.

"It's very frustrating. People don't realize it. Our society pays millions of dollars in cases that most people would think don't have merit," he said.

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