City moves closer to settlement for amputation following pothole crash
BY ALLISON HORTON AND FRAN SPIELMAN Staff Reporters September 7, 2011 4:58PM
Updated: November 9, 2011 12:41PM
Zuriel Padilla was driving home from a housewarming party on a snowy night three years ago when he hit a pothole that forever changed his life.
It wound up costing him one of his legs and much more.
“When the accident happened, everything fell apart,” Padilla said. “No school, no job. I was devastated.”
A Chicago City Council committee moved to make some amends Wednesday with a $300,000 settlement agreement. It still must pass the full City Council.
Padilla had filed a personal injury lawsuit that pointed the finger directly at the city.
He was driving home from a relative’s party on Feb. 10, 2008 when he hit a deep pothole near Archer and Kedzie in the Southwest Side’s Brighton Park neighborhood. The combination of the pothole and the slick conditions caused the 1998 Chevrolet Camaro car he was driving to jump a curb and crash into a fire hydrant.
Padilla’s leg was so severely injured, doctors were forced to amputate it the following day.
Either city crews working in the area created the pothole that caused the accident or the city knew about the hole because of the work being done in the neighborhood and neglected to fill it, the suit contended.
Two days before the accident, a Chicago Department of Transportation crew filled a dozen potholes near the one that Padilla hit. A Water Department crew had also repaired a water main leak near the accident site. The city’s Law Department argued that there is “some evidence” that Padilla, “may have been driving too fast” for conditions.
But, a department press release said, “The presence of city crews near the site of the accident filling potholes and repairing the water main would make it difficult for the city to deny notice of the pothole that caused Padilla to crash.”
Padilla said that since the accident he goes to therapy and doctor appointments but hasn’t been able to get around much and is mainly on bed rest. Before the accident, Padilla said he was a manager at Gino’s East restaurant in the River North neighborhood and was a student at Richard J. Daley College.
He said he has had a prosthetic leg for a 1 1/2 years but hopes to buy a better one with the money he receives from the settlement. He also wants to go to school to become a prosthetic specialist and help amputee victims.
“I know what they’ve been through,” Padilla said. “With the settlement, I feel better. Like there is a light at the end of the tunnel.”