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Veteran who lost leg in motorcycle crash with Navy van to be paid millions, lawyers say

Judge gavel, scales of justice and law books in court (BrianAJackson/Orlando Sentinel/TNS)

A Navy veteran and motorcyclist who lost his leg in a crash with a military van has won millions of dollars in a settlement against the United States, lawyers said.

The veteran, Peter Arthur, was riding his motorcycle on Sept. 13, 2019, on Interstate 5 in National City south of San Diego, when a chain-reaction crash flung a vehicle into his path and threw him from his motorcycle, according to a complaint filed by the law firm CaseyGerry in 2020.

The chain-reaction crash was set off by a Navy-owned Chevrolet van driven by a Navy servicemember that swerved into another lane, striking a second vehicle and causing a sequence of collisions, according to a news release CaseyGerry sent to McClatchy News on Jan. 4.

The case was settled in October 2022 for $10.8 million, the release says.

Arthur, who served in the U.S. Navy for 20 years, suffered multiple severe injuries and later had to have his leg amputated above the knee, according to the lawsuit .

Lawyers representing the U.S. government in the case declined to comment. A spokesperson for the U.S. Navy did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Robert J. Francavilla, with the CaseyGerry law firm, told McClatchy News that the Navy’s position throughout the litigation was that another vehicle changed lanes into the path of the Navy van, causing it to swerve.

But Francavilla, who called it a “phantom vehicle,” said Arthur’s lawyers were able to prove no vehicle entered the van’s lane.

The Navy sailor who was driving the van at the time was originally named as a defendant in the case but was later dismissed as an individual after the U.S. said he was acting within the scope of his federal employment at the time, according to a write-up the law firm submitted to a local newspaper and sent to McClatchy News.

The lawsuit says the driver’s “sudden, unnecessary, unsafe, and unreasonable swerving” led to Arthur’s injuries .

The U.S. was negligent in entrusting the van to the driver, who had a record of dangerous and reckless driving, the lawsuit says .

“As a direct and legal result of the negligence and carelessness of the United States of America, (Arthur) was injured in his health, strength, and activity…” the lawsuit says .

The law firm said in a statement that the settlement is the “largest motor vehicle collision settlement with the U.S. Federal government in San Diego history.”

But most importantly, Francavilla said the money will be a great help to Arthur.

“It sets Peter up and gives him a chance,” he said.


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