Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

April 16, 2013

Lawsuits filed in year-old accident

Staff reports
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — Two new lawsuits have been filed relating to a Lockport man’s death in a motor vehicle accident last year.

The parents of Richard W. Dunn filed suit against Niagara County, Cambria Volunteer Fire Company, former county coroner Russell Jackman and former Cambria Fire Chief Vincent Salerno, seeking compensatory and punitive damages from the parties after Jackman, as coroner, took tissue from Dunn’s body and gave it to Salerno for use in cadaver dog training.

Also last week, Ashley Wallace, a passenger in the vehicle that was hit by Dunn’s vehicle in the April 13, 2012, collision, sued Dunn’s estate, as well as JC’s Marlboro Inn. Wallace’s suit claims Dunn was served alcoholic beverages at the Sanborn bar before the crash and that Dunn was intoxicated. Wallace also is suing Shayla L. Huston, the driver in whose vehicle she was one of three passengers.

Dunn, 32, died at the scene after his pickup collided with Huston’s sedan on Saunders Settlement Road in Cambria. According to police reports, Dunn was eastbound when he lost control of his truck, crossed the center line and struck Huston’s vehicle head-on. Niagara County Sheriff’s Sgt. Kevin Locicero later told the media that Dunn was at fault, and the accident appeared to have occurred because he wasn’t paying attention to conditions. Police at the time did not credit alcohol with playing any role in the accident.

Wallace’s attorney, F. David Rusin of William Mattar P.C., declined to answer questions about the suit late last week, including why Wallace is suing Huston. The suit claims that Huston and Dunn both operated their vehicles carelessly and that Wallace suffered unspecified permanent injuries in the crash.

Shayla Huston and the estate of Richard Dunn both were sued last year by two other crash victims, Terrence A. Hardy and John Davis Jr., both of whom were passengers in Huston’s vehicle.

Davis, who like Ashley Wallace is represented by the William Mattar law firm, also claimed in his suit that Dunn was intoxicated.

Separately, Danny P. Dunn Sr. and Anita L. Dunn filed suit against former county coroner Jackman, former fire chief Salerno and their employers at the time of the accident. The Dunns’ suit says the taking of their son’s body tissue was observed by bystanders and witnesses “who found the conduct to be so repulsive as to cause them to report the incident to law enforcement officers.” The taking was not known to Dunn’s parents until the sheriff’s office launched an investigation, after Dunn’s funeral, the suit noted.

Jackman resigned from the Fourth District coroner’s post, and Salerno resigned as Cambria fire chief, several weeks after the accident that killed Dunn. Both men admitted they’d mishandled human remains — as they didn’t have Dunn’s or his survivors’ permission to take his tissue — and pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of obstructing government administration. They were fined $1,000 a piece, ordered to perform 100 hours of community service with the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and ordered to write letters of apology to Dunn’s family.