Woman wins $2.5 million judgment
Saturday, January 17, 1998
Country Club liable in accident, jury says
By Terri Spencer
WILMINGTON-A Superior Court jury Friday ordered Wilmington Country Club to pay $2.5 million to a mother of three who suffered permanent brain damage in a traffic accident as she left the club's property.
The jury found the club liable for injuries suffered by Cindy Cowee, 33, when her car was smashed broadside by a truck traveling 50 mph on November 13, 1993.
The jury sided with Cowee because the club did not have a stop sign or other warnings that would have prevented her pulling onto Del. 52 into the truck's path.
Cowee, a videographer who has moved from Wilmington to Connecticut since the accident, has impaired memory and speech and will never work again, said Robert Pasquale, her attorney.
He said it was raining the night of the accident, hampering vision, and that trees lining the club's entrance road blocked his client's view of the truck and Del. 52.
Cowee, a first-time visitor to the club, was confused by the entrance road to the Methodist Country Home, which is across Del. 52 from the country club. The two entrance roads line up, giving Cowee the impression that it was one continuous road.
Pasquale said key testimony came from two drivers who left the country club shortly before Cowee. They also said they drove out of its entrance road without stopping, across Del. 52 and onto the Methodist home's drive. Another driver following Cowee testified that she was not speeding and appeared to be driving safely before the accident.
Pasquale said the club knew the driveway was dangerous and had installed stop signs at the exit to Del. 52. But vandals had taken them down before the accident and the club had not replaced them. The club should have put up temporary warning signs or devices, Pasquale said.
"The club argued that private landowners have no responsibility to put up a stop sign, and legally they don't," Pasquale said. "But they do have the responsibility to make their property absolutely safe for their invitees."
Because of the accident, the state installed a stoplight at the intersection of Del. 52 and the club's exit, Pasquale said. "But that was too late for Cindy", he said.
Stephen P. Casarino, the club's attorney, did not return a call for comment.