City asking court to limit their liability in fatal crash

This article submitted by Linda Stelling on 4/14/98.

The city of Paynesville filed a complaint in Stearns County District Court April 6 seeking to have the court place everyone involved with the Oct. 15, 1997 accident, which claimed the life of Gary Westby, into a single legal action.

Under Minnesota State Statute, claims against the city of Paynesville cannot exceed $600,000.

The city wants to have the court recognize their liability is limited, no matter how many claims arise out of a single action.

Bill Everett, an attorney representing the city through the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust, is asking the court to handle the money and to see it is divided fairly among each claimant.

On Nov. 6, 1997, a claim was submitted on behalf of the estate of Gary Westby for wrongful death and also on behalf of Cynthia Westby for personal injuries.

Michael James Erickson, who sustained personal injuries as a result of the accident, also notified the city of his intent to pursue a claim against it. Erickson has demanded the city pay the maximum limit to him.

If Erickson brings a claim for personal injury, Connie Erickson, his wife, may also bring a claim for loss of consortium.

Minnesota Statute also establishes that every person claiming loss or injury from any municipality shall do so within 180 days after the injury or loss.

The fatal accident occurred on Oct. 15, 1997 when John Carl Anderson, Paynesville, failed to stop for Paynesville Police Officer Joe Schmitz and a chase began. The chase took the two men from Paynesville down Cemetery Road onto Roseville Road and across Highway 23 near the Evangelical Free Church.

Officer Schmitz failed to see oncoming traffic as he crossed the highway and his patrol car collided with a van driven by Gary Westby, Spicer.

Anderson was subsequently convicted in February on charges of vehicular homicide, causing a death while fleeing an officer, causing substantial bodily harm while fleeing an officer, two counts of criminal vehicular operation, two counts of fleeing an officer and one count of driving under the influence.

Return to Archives