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Polito & Associates reaches settlement in case where driver’s moment of inattention leads to double fatal crash

The Tylers died within 50 minutes of each other on June 21, 2013, when their Honda CRV sport utility vehicle was struck head-on by a distracted driver on Route 2 in Preston near the intersection of Hewitt Road.

Thomas P. Flaherty, 57, of Willimantic, was sober but distracted when his GMC Sierra pickup slammed head-on into the Tylers’ car, according to court documents. He was driving home from working in Rhode Island when he coughed and tapped on his brakes, causing his cellphone to slide across the dashboard. He reached for his phone, and then, in his own words in a statement to police shortly after the accident, “Bang.”

The Tylers’ estate recently received a $3 million settlement in a wrongful death lawsuit brought against Flaherty and his employer, the Andrew Ansaldi contracting company. Their attorney, Humbert J. Polito, said the initial claim was against Flaherty, but after investigating the circumstances of the crash, the estate was able to sue the employer as well. The case was settled during mediation sessions before Superior Court Judge William H. Bright Jr.

In his statement to state police, Flaherty said he had gone to the Charlestown, R.I., home of his employer that day and poured floors for a garage and two porches. He left about 4 p.m., Flaherty said, and had not made any stops when the crash occurred at about 5:30 p.m. Other employees had taken a company vehicle to the site, though Flaherty was in his personal car.

“We were able to demonstrate through their company that their custom was to pay for your return trip back to your company,” Polito said.

Flaherty was a hardworking man who had a tragic moment of inattention, Polito said

“What I find unique and kind of powerful was the level of accountability he took,” Polito said. “Because of that, the family in turn was able to stand up for him.”

Flaherty’s attorney indicated to Polito that Flaherty did not want to participate in this story at this time, and he could not be reached for comment at his home in Willimantic.

Jones said her family feels the settlement is fair but would give back every penny if they could have the Tylers back.

Polito’s firm and Jones have become involved with a group called End Distracted Driving. Jones said she never takes off the group’s pink rubber bracelet, which shows a driver with two hands on the steering wheel.

“We go to schools and speak,” Polito said. “The premise of the program is that when people think about distracted driving, they think about teenagers. It’s designed to get them to go home and talk to the adults in their lives.”

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Published January 01. 2017 6:59PM | Updated January 02. 2017 6:53PM

By Karen Florin Day staff writer

k.florin@theday.com  KFLORIN