WILKES-BARRE – A lawsuit in Luzerne County Court involving a Kingston man who was left disabled after a collision with a tractor-trailer has been settled for $7 million.
The suit was filed by Deborah Prebola on behalf of her 30-year-old son, Jesse Prebola, in January 2012 against the driver of the tractor-trailer and several companies.
After an agreement reached on April 16, according to court papers, the Prebolas and the named defendants came to a $7 million settlement in insurance proceeds approved on May 17 by a county judge.
“We were confident that if the case had proceeded to trial, the award would be in excess of the $7 million,” said attorney Joseph Quinn, of Kingston, who represented the Prebolas. “If we can obtain a favorable settlement, we’ll agree to it. This will allow (Deborah Prebola) to be a mom rather than the sole caretaker of Jesse.”
According to the suit, on Oct. 27, 2010, at 11:30 p.m., Jesse Prebola, who was 27 at the time, was driving north on Route 29 outside of Tunkhannock.
Thomas Punko, of Plymouth, was operating a tractor-trailer approaching in the southbound lane with a load of auto parts to be delivered to Tunkhannock Auto Mart, according to the suit. The suit states Punko was given specific instructions on how to deliver the parts but “ignored” them, pulling the truck into the northbound lane.
In testimony, police said Jesse Prebola would not have been able to see the trailer until it was too late for him to react, causing his vehicle to strike the rig.
Court papers indicate Jesse Prebola was immediately rendered unconscious and suffered several seizures. He was air-lifted to a hospital, where he was in a coma for more than 30 days.
Prebola has suffered permanent impairment, the suit states, and doctors have determined he is disabled.
“(Deborah Prebola) has given up her employment … and her life to care for her son because of his severe cognitive defects,” Quinn said. “The injuries he sustained to his brain affects his judgment in every regard.”
The suit named Punko’s employer, JWB Logistics Corp., as a defendant, as well as River Street Ideallease, which owned the truck, and Trucks on the Run, which leased the truck. The suit also named TMD Corp., which borrowed the truck and for whom Punko was running a route, and other entities as defendants. All have addresses in New Jersey, according to the suit.
According to the settlement, the following amounts will be paid:
• $287,462 to repay Medicare for accident-related treatment and care Jesse Prebola has received.
• $2.8 million in attorney’s fees.
• $152,721 in fees to reimburse expenses of Hourigan, Kluger & Quinn P.C.
• $107,440 to Lenahan & Dempsey P.C. for expenses incurred.
• $50,000 retained in an escrow for additional costs incurred.
• $3.5 million to Deborah Prebola, as a temporary guardian of Jesse Prebola.
The agreement also outlines payments to be made in regard to child support obligations Jesse Prebola pays for a minor child, as well as fees to be awarded to attorneys representing parties in that aspect of the case: Jacqueline Musto Carroll and Fred Howe.
Listed defendants in the case already had paid an advance $100,000 for medical care, according to the settlement.
A trust will be established for Jesse Prebola, Quinn said, to make sure any money is properly invested and that Prebola continues to receive necessary medical care.