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Groton couple receives settlement in alleged drunken driving crash

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A Groton couple whose pickup truck was struck head-on by a man accused of driving drunk in Ledyard two years ago will receive a $1.2 million settlement, according to attorney John J. Nazzaro.

Eric and Melanie Thompson suffered serious injuries in the July 21, 2018, crash on Gallup Hill Road near the intersection of Meetinghouse Lane.

According to police reports, a Subaru Impreza driven by Samuel McGrath, then 24, of Ledyard crossed the center line and struck the Thompsons' Chevy Silverado head-on. Both vehicles sustained heavy front-end damage and caught fire.

Eric Thompson suffered a back injury that required surgery and left him seriously impaired. Melanie Thompson sustained injuries to her abdomen and chest, and a crush injury to her right hand.

"This family was dealt a serious blow. But they are back on their feet working and managing like others through this challenging environment," Nazzaro said.

A witness to the 6:30 p.m. crash, Adam J. Rodriguez of Waterford, told police he and his girlfriend, who lives in the area, were getting ready to take a walk when he heard the Subaru's engine revving and tires squeal as it approached a curve. He said the truck crossed the center line of the road, striking the Thompsons' oncoming pickup truck.

The impact pushed the pickup truck back about 10 feet.

Rodriguez said McGrath was slumped near the driver's side door, which was open. He pulled McGrath out of the car and retrieved a fire extinguisher to put out the fire.

Ledyard firefighters arrived and extinguished the car fires, and McGrath, who was uninjured, was arrested at the scene. According to police reports, he had slurred speech, bloodshot eyes and smelled of alcohol. He failed field sobriety tests and was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol and failure to drive to the right. He submitted to Breathalyzer tests at 7:19 and 10:09 p.m., which indicated his blood alcohol content was 0.213% and 0.187%, respectively. The legal limit for driving is 0.08%.

McGrath's case is pending in New London Superior Court.

Nazzaro, of the Reardon Law Firm, said he filed a civil lawsuit early on behalf of the Thompsons, given the serious nature of their injuries.

Court activity has been limited due to the coronavirus pandemic, but Nazzaro said he and attorney Joseph Melley, who represented McGrath, were able to reach an agreement during a remote pretrial conference with Judge Barbara Bailey Jongbloed. The Allstate Insurance Company paid the settlements of more than $1 million to Eric Thompson and more than $100,000 to Melanie Thompson to resolve the case.

k.florin@theday.com

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