Titus Gallery on the Commons in the aftermath of the crash. Provided pic.

ITHACA, N.Y. — A national insurance company says it is ready to pay a total of $1 million to the victims of a 2014 crash at Simeon’s Restaurant in downtown Ithaca under its agreement with a Washington-based trucking company.

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The firm, the SPARTA Insurance Company, is asking a local court to decide how the $1 million should be divided among the many victims seeking financial compensation in the accident’s aftermath.

Several individuals and businesses have said that they’ll be seeking damages in connection with the crash.

Those victims include Adam Cortwright, fiance of the 27-year-old bartender and mother who died in the crash; the Titus Gallery, an art firm next to Simeon’s that suffered heavy damage in the accident; Martin Waisbrot, a waiter at Simeon’s who was severely injured by the truck; and several other businesses and individuals, according to SPARTA’s recent court filings.

It seems unlikely, based on the new records filed on Tuesday in Tompkins County Court, that all of those affected by the crash will find the payout they set out to seek in civil court.

The victims seeking damages, the insurance company says, each has “claims to have an interest in the (insurance) policy and presents conflicting and adverse demands regarding the use of the policy limits of $1 million, which puts SPARTA in doubt as to how to apportion the remaining policy proceeds.”

Titus Gallery on the Commons in the aftermath of the crash. Provided pic.

Insurance company’s stance

SPARTA says it is ready to pay the $1 million as part of an insurance agreement it signed with Quality Relocation Services, the trucking company that owned the tractor-trailer involved in the fatal June 20, 2014, crash.

Quality Relocation Services was shut down by the federal government after running up one of the worst safety records among the many thousands of licensed carriers in the country. Several of the crash’s victims had named Quality Relocation Services as a defendant in their lawsuits.

Truck driver Viacheslav Grychanyi, 37, paid a fine less than $2,000 after pleading guilty to four traffic violations in connection with the accident.

See related: Truck driver in Simeon’s crash pleads guilty to 4 traffic violations

SPARTA says its insurance agreement is clear that it can only be held responsible for a maximum of $1 million in connection with a single accident, even if that accident leads to several claims of damages. (The court documents were written by SPARTA attorney John D. McKenna of Garden City, New Jersey.)

The insurance agreement classifies “all ‘bodily injury,’ ‘property damage’ … resulting from continuous or repeated exposure to substantially the same conditions as resulting from one ‘accident,’” the SPARTA document states.

Reached on Thursday, attorney McKenna declined to comment, citing SPARTA’s company policy.

See related: 1 year after Simeon’s crash kills mom, father says child is his savior

See related: The other side of the wall: Inside Titus Gallery when ‘everything changed’ in a second

Click on the Ithaca Voice Story Database to learn more. Stories on this topic are filed under “Truck safety in Ithaca.”
Click on the Ithaca Voice Story Database to learn more. Stories on this topic are filed under “Truck safety in Ithaca.”

It wasn’t immediately clear if the SPARTA’s insurance payments would preclude the crash’s victims from seeking financial payment from other possible defendants. SPARTA itself, however, recognizes in its filing that the damages sought — between all the victims of the crash — will exceed $1 million.

“SPARTA … has advised its insureds that the claims are likely to exceed the policy’s limits of liability,” it says. “Defendants each claim to recover from SPARTA’s insureds in amounts that are likely to exceed the $1 million policy limits.”

“SPARTA is a disinterested stakeholder as to such amounts and respectfully requests that this Court determine to whom and/or in what amounts the policy limits should be paid.”

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Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.