The Perth Amboy man who nearly died in 2018 after a drunk cop drove into his parked car at approximately 70 mph has received a $2.25 million settlement, according to his attorney.
Amadeo Sosa, then 56, was sitting in his car behind a disabled dump truck on the side of Route 9 in Old Bridge on Dec. 18, 2018 when then Sayreville Police Sgt. Jeffrey P. Kutz drove into the vehicle. Sosa was pinned in the wreckage with a broken back, a ruptured aorta and other injuries.
If you look at the photos in this case, its just a flat out miracle that he didnt die, said Sosas attorney, Nicholas Leonardis of Stathis & Leonardis in Edison.
Kutz, 61, the now-retired Sayreville police sergeant who admitted he consumed a total of 15 drinks at a work Christmas party and then at another officers home before the crash, will pay the biggest share of the settlement at $1.5 million, Leonardis said. Police reports from the scene indicate Kutz who pleaded guilty to assault by auto in 2019 was urine-soaked, unsteady on his feet and confused about where he was after the crash.
Fernandes Steak House in Sayreville, where the holiday party was held, agreed to pay $250,000, Leonardis said, and Officer Anthony DOnofrio and his wife Jane agreed to pay $500,000. They hosted the afterparty, where roughly a dozen fellow officers watched Kutz leave to drive home just before midnight, according to depositions in the civil suit.
Officer DOnofrio testified that Kutz did not appear drunk when he left the gathering. But his blood alcohol content was .243, or more than three times the legal limit, when he had blood drawn two hours after the accident.
Attorneys for the defendants did not return calls and emails seeking comment. The Sayreville Police Department which was not named in the lawsuit declined to comment.
Sosas injuries were so severe he was airlifted to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick in critical condition and underwent emergency surgery to repair his ruptured aorta. Although his recovery from that injury was remarkable, his attorney said he still has regular pain from his spinal injuries. He also has significant memory loss from head injuries, his attorney wrote in court documents.
Amadeo Sosa had to be extricated from the wreckage of his car and airlifted for emergency heart surgery.Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office
But Sosa and his family are grateful he is alive. Leonardis said hes never seen a case like this in his 30 years as a civil attorney not just because a sergeant of over 20 years drove while so heavily intoxicated, but because a room full of fellow officers didnt stop him.
There were plenty of opportunities for this not to have happened, he said Tuesday. Youre at the restaurant for three hours, drinking beer, wine, sangria, and then you go to another house for another three hours. Something would have clicked, right? Youd think somebody would have been the voice of reason and said, Hey, this is not a good idea. But apparently not.
Kutz pleaded guilty to assault by auto in 2019 and was given a six-month suspended jail sentence and three years probation. He lost his license for seven months, had an ignition interlock in his vehicle for seven months and was ordered to abstain from alcohol while on probation (he said he slipped up once but his probation officer let it go). He is also barred from holding any public position in New Jersey.
After initially being suspended without pay, he was allowed to retire from the department instead of being fired. But public records show he agreed to have his pension rate based on his salary from his 20th year on the job, as opposed to his most recent salary in his 22nd year. That still nets him $64,692 annually, state records show.
Sayreville Sgt. Jeffrey Kutz (Provided by Sayreville)
The festivities on the evening of Dec. 17, 2018 began at Fernandes Steak House, where a fellow officer had arranged an unofficial holiday party with food, beer and sangria included in the $60 ticket, per Kutzs deposition testimony.
Between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m., Kutz ate food and drank six beers, two glasses of the sangria available on each table and a shot of amaretto, he testified. Officers then went to the DOnofrio home in Parlin, where they continued drinking at a bar in his basement. Kutz drank four pints of beer and two shots of homemade blueberry alcohol that an officers underage daughter brought to the party, he testified. He estimated there were 13 officers there.
Kutz doesnt recall leaving the party shortly before midnight, anything of the accident or the aftermath, he said in deposition.
A broken-down dump truck was parked with emergency markers in the shoulder of Route 9 South just south of the Route 18 overpass, and Sosa had been dispatched by his employer, Willys Transports, to bring a part to fix it, Leonardis said. Sosa sat in his car parked in the shoulder behind the dump truck to warm up.
Kutzs pickup, traveling approximately 70 mph, plowed into the car, crushing it against the massive dump truck and trapping Sosa in the wreckage. Another man was working on the trucks engine at the time of the crash but wasnt injured.
The sergeant suffered a concussion, according to his deposition, and Old Bridge police reports indicate he was initially unconscious. When he came to, police noted he had urinated on himself and was slurring and agitated.
Mr. Kutz appeared to be extremely confused and was not aware of where he was at the time, Old Bridge Officer Scott Henry wrote in a report. Kutz refused to stay in his truck to be evaluated and needed help walking to the ambulance, police wrote.
He was transported to the hospital, where a blood draw at 2 a.m. showed a BAC of .243. A second blood draw at 5 a.m. five hours after the crash was .17, still more than twice the legal limit, according to documents filed in the civil suit.
Amadeo Sosa had to be extricated from the car and airlifted for emergency surgery after the 2018 crash on Route 9 in Old Bridge.Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office
Kutz said in deposition that he was a law-abiding citizen all my life, and that he wishes he never went to the get-together that night four years ago.
It will never happen again. I can tell you that, he said.
Sosa didnt take a position on the sentencing or lack of jail time for Kutz in 2019, his attorney said, believing it was better to forgive him as part of the healing process.
In the scope of things, hes certainly a blessed man, that hes still here to talk about it and to still celebrate the holidays now with his family, Leonardis said of Sosa. Because there were moments… in December 2018, when this occurred, that they quite frankly didnt think theyd have their husband there for that holiday.
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Rebecca Everett may be reached at email@example.com.