The woman, 51, had been under the influence on Oct. 30 when she rear-ended a BMW with her SUV, sending that car into an oncoming traffic lane, where it struck a car operated by 19-year-old Michael Bivona Jr., according to a civil lawsuit filed June 22 by attorney John M. Parese of New Haven-based Buckley & Wynne.
The head-on crash injured the teen severely enough that officials say he likely would have died if not for New Canaan’s emergency responders.
She “violated Section 14-227a of the Connecticut General Statutes in operating said vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor and/or drugs,” according to the complaint.
She could not immediately be reached for comment.
Though she has only faced a criminal charge of misdemeanor reckless driving (to which she pleaded not guilty), New Canaan Police in seeking an arrest warrant initially had sought a DUI charge, documents show.
Yet after an investigation in which hospital officials apparently failed to test her blood for drugs, the state’s attorney’s office declined to bring the more serious charge, according to an arrest warrant application and police affidavits.
The woman had failed all field sobriety tests at the scene, according to the application.
She also appeared disoriented and, though her only physical ailment from the crash appeared to be a bloody nose, contradicted herself more than once while speaking to police in its immediate aftermath, according to multiple affidavits from New Canaan police officers on scene.
Police discovered that the woman had access to prescription drugs, and after a Breathalyzer test administered on scene showed no alcohol in her system, instructed emergency room physicians at Norwalk Hospital to test her blood for drugs, the application said.
However, “the hospital laboratory did not check for any other drugs despite the fact that [a New Canaan police officer] requested it be checked the night of the crash,” the application said.
Hospital officials could not immediately be reached for comment.
It remains unclear just where she had been immediately prior to the accident. Nor is it clear just what happened at the hospital or whether her blood is still available for drug screening.
Parese had said in the weeks that followed the accident that a lawsuit was likely.
The New Canaan Police Department’s application for an arrest warrant states unequivocally that ER staff were instructed to test for drugs: “After all patients were transported to Norwalk ER, [a New Canaan Police officer] was sent to follow up with emergency room staff. [The officer] made contact with emergency room nurses, and explained that he needed blood to be drawn from [the woman] because at the time it was believed the accident would result in a fatality. [The officer] requested the blood sample be checked for alcohol as well as any prescription and/or illegal drugs.”
One officer’s testimony reads: “On 1/7/15, I spoke to [a woman] in the state’s attorney’s office at Norwalk Court. I asked her about reviewing the case prior to writing an arrest warrant, and she stated they do not discuss cases prior to a warrant. We did discuss the case briefly, and we were in agreement to how to proceed. She recommended writing up an arrest warrant based on the information we had, and send it down for review. Supplements will follow as the warrant proceeds. On 1/21/15, I completed an arrest warrant for [the woman], for the charges of DWI and reckless driving. The warrant was reviewed by [the state’s attorney] on 2/5/15, and she advised me they would not pursue the DWI charge. She requested the DWI charge be removed, and the warrant re-submitted. On 2/23/15, the warrant was re-submitted to Norwalk Court.”
Reached by phone, an official in the state’s attorney’s office said the agency does not discuss individual cases.
It isn’t clear just how much compensation Bivona is seeking in the lawsuit. A list in the lawsuit of physical injuries to his face, leg, spine and jaw also includes “several emotional and psychological injuries; post-traumatic stress, diminution of the ability to enjoy life’s pleasures; loss of function; pain and anguish, and a shock to his entire nervous system, some of which injuries are or are likely to be of a permanent nature.”
The accident not only forced him to incur ongoing medical costs, but he also “was and will in the future be unable to pursue his regular course of employment, thereby sustaining financial loss and an impaired earning capacity.”
Parts of the lawsuit—that she has been traveling at an excessive speed and failed to halt the collision—echo what police found in their accident reconstruction: She was operating her SUV wildly, according to data obtained from the vehicles Electronic Data Recorder or “EDR.”
For example, she had the accelerator pushed virtually to the floor of the car all through the collision (the man she rear-ended had been traveling about 37 mph in the 30 mph zone, the report said, along Silvermine just up the hill from the intersection at Little Brook Road/Clapboard Hill Road) and even after impact, according to the “EDR,” the woman never once stepped on the brakes.
Police after pulling her out of her SUV through a passenger-side window (the vehicle had rolled onto its side against a row of trees) found that she had a bloody nose but said she was otherwise “fine.” Officers said they could smell alcohol on her breath, and that the woman told them she had “half a glass of wine,” but then after she was reminded that she’d been in an accident, said, “I didn’t drink anything today,” according to the arrest warrant application.
The woman, in flip-flops that she opted to keep on, failed field sobriety tests, according to the application and an office’s testimony. She repeatedly lost her balance, couldn’t walk straight and was unable to stand on one foot, police said. “Once [the woman] put her foot down, she looked at me and said, ‘I’m done now,’ ” the officer recalled in the police report.
The woman told police that she’d been on her way to pick up her child from a horse-riding lesson, though she’d already passed the turn-off from Silvermine to get to the organization that supposedly was giving that lesson, police said.
Disoriented and confused, the woman asked police repeatedly whether she was on Harrison Avenue—where she lives—and had to be told that no, she was on Silvermine Road.
[Editor’s Note: This article has been updated removing the name of an individual involved in the crash.]