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Arbitrator recommends $32.4M to victims of deadly 2021 crash in Kansas City's Westport

Posted at 3:27 PM, Oct 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-21 19:32:04-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Parties in a civil lawsuit over the wrongful deaths of three people in a crash involving a Kansas City, Missouri, Fire department pumper truck have reached a tentative arbitration agreement worth more than $30 million.

An arbitrator says Dominic Biscari, a KCFD firefighter, was negligent and "directly caused" the Westport crash that killed three people, injured another, and damaged a building on Dec. 15, 2021.

The crash involved a KCFD pumper truck and an SUV at the Westport intersection of Westport Road and Broadway Boulevard.

Court documents filed Friday outline the details from arbitrator Hon. Miles Sweeney's recommendation to award $29 million to the families of Michael Elwood, Jennifer San Nicolas, and Tami Knight. Each filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Biscari, the city, and the fire department.

He also recommended awarding Knight's boyfriend who was walking with her the night of the crash $2 million and $1.4 million to the owners of the building that was damaged by the crash.

The total arbitration award was $32.4 millon. It comes after the plaintiffs entered into a binding arbitration agreement with Biscari. Both parties appointed Sweeney to be the arbitrator.

On Oct. 7, Sweeney presided over a full evidentiary hearing. It included witness testimony, evidence and arguments from each side.

According to court filings, the arbitrator found Biscari's "negligence in his use and operation of Pumper 19 directly caused the subject crash."

The records also say Biscari and KCFD "were on notice of his dangerous and reckless driving of KCFD vehicles." The KSHB 41 I-Team previously reported on a complaint filed less than three months before the crash about Biscari's driving.

New details about the crash are also being revealed in the court documents. They say Biscari "made blatantly false statements" to KCPD investigators about several aspects of the crash.

Biscari told investigators he reduced his speed to 30 miles per hour, but a review of the crash video and eyewitness testimony estimate he was going around 50 miles per hour, per court documents. The speed limit in the area is 35 miles per hour.

The records also say Biscari told investigators he looked and did not see anything in the intersection, but video evidence refuted that claim by showing the SUV in the intersection first. Biscari also claimed he "slammed on his brakes and attempted to swerve," but the documents say there was no evidence of braking or swerving.

Expert witness, Randy Villines, who had been in the fire service for 27 years, watched the video of the crash. He said Biscari violated Kansas City Fire Department policy by entering the intersection on a red light and fell below the national standard of care when he didn't fully clear the intersection first.

The expert witness also said Biscari failed to yield the right of way and did not keep a careful lookout. The court documents said "claimants, and claimants' decedents, deserved better from Defendant Biscari that day."

A judge still needs to confirm the arbitration award and enter judgement against Biscari.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs did not have a comment.

A spokesman for the Jackson County Prosecuting Attorney's Office said the arbitration award does not impact the criminal investigation. They are still reviewing the crash and determining whether charges will be filed in the case.

The I-Team has reached out to Biscari's attorney, the city, and the fire department. Since there's still pending litigation, the city and fire department said they cannot comment.

Biscari's attorney could not be reached for comment. We will update this story if we receive a response.

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