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Town, family reach settlement in Northville civic leader’s death

Kerry Moran

Nearly five years after longtime Northville civic leader Kieran “Kerry” Moran died from injuries he sustained after he was hit by a car driven by a Riverhead Town employee, a settlement has been reached in a lawsuit filed by his family against the town.

The settlement awards $150,000 to Mr. Moran’s family. Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter said the town will end up paying just under $50,000 and insurance will pay the balance.

Mr. Moran was crossing the street on Sound Shore Road in Northville to get his mail on July 17, 2010 around 1:30 p.m. when he was hit by a car driven by town employee Walter Breitenbach, according to court documents.

Mr. Moran died from those injuries on Sept. 14, 2011 at the age of 68.

Mr. Breitenbach died Oct. 28, 2011 at age 77 and his wife, Gladys, who was a passenger in the car at the time of the accident, also died in 2011.

Mr. Moran’s wife, Bernadette, and his estate filed a wrongful death lawsuit in 2011 naming the town and the estates of Mr. Breitenbach and his wife, who owned the car, as defendants.

Mr. Breitenbach had given a sworn statement to police at the time of the accident saying that he was only driving around 25 to 30 mph at the time of the accident and had stepped on the brakes and swerved to the left when he saw someone in the road, but could not avoid hitting him.

A professional engineer who testified in the case concluded that, based on the evidence of the crash, Mr. Breitenbach’s car was traveling 40 to 45 mph prior to braking to avoid the accident and that it was going 30 to 35 mph at the time of impact, according to court documents.

State Supreme Court Justice Peter Mayer called that conclusion “speculative, unsubstantial and conclusory.” He also had refused to dismiss the case and declined to make a judgement prior to the settlement.

An accident reconstruction expert who testified at the trial concluded that Mr. Breitenbach was going 28 mph at the time of impact. The speed limit at the time was 35 mph.

Sound Shore Road residents there have complained about speeds on the entire length of the road. As a result, the Town Board voted Tuesday to approve lowering the speed limit to 30 mph. Town officials said they had asked the state to make that change about 10 years ago and only got permission this year.

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File photo: Kerry Moran in 2007. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)