Officer Awarded $5.7 Million After Disabled in Wreck
On May 7, 1991, Mundelein police officer Susan Roy spotted an injured cat on Route 45 just south of Courtland Street.
She stopped her squad car on the road, turned on the roof-top lights, got out and opened the trunk for her night stick to move the animal off the road.
It was to become an act of kindness that would tragically alter the life of the 28-year-old Roy, an officer of two years who was seven weeks pregnant.
As Roy peered inside the trunk, a limousine driven by former Skokie resident George Varnai ran into her. Pinned between the two vehicles, Roy lost her right leg and the fetus that night.
Roy’s left leg, badly broken in several places, has never recovered, leaving Roy to spend nearly half of each day in a wheel-chair.
More than five years later, the McHenry County woman, who has gone through multiple surgeries, has been awarded $5.75 million because of the injuries.
A panel of three arbitrators considering the case found Friday that Varnai and his limousine company, Elite Limousine Ltd., were largely to blame for the accident.
Varnai, who told arbitrators has was going 30 mph, was ticketed for failing to reduce speed to avoid a collision. He was found guilty and fined $500 by a Lake County Circuit Court judge in 1991.
Varnai’s insurance couldn’t begin to cover the tragic accident. His insurer, Corporation Insular De Seguro, went bankrupt and was liquidated by the Illinois Guaranty fund in 1992.
That left Roy to try and collect through an uninsured motorist claim from the Village of Mundelein’s insurer, the Intergovernmental Risk Management Agency.
“We think the award was high, but we know she suffered some serious injuries,” said Jim DeAno, attorney for IRMA.
The Oakbrook Terrace-based insurance pool provides coverage for 67 member governments in the region, including the Village of Mundelein.
IRMA argued that Roy shouldn’t have parked her squad car in the middle of the roadway.
There also were questions raised about whether Roy’s trunk lights worked and whether Varnai could have seen the squad’s roof-top lights with the trunk open.
“He should have seen the squad car from 500 to 800 feet…you can only speculate that he obviously didn’t have his eyes on the road,”
IRMA hasn’t made a decision yet on whether to challenge the award, the second largest ever lodged against the 17-year-old agency, said Sal Bianchi, the pool’s executive director.
But the insurance pool has filed a request with DuPage County court asking that the award by “offset” by more than $800,000 in worker’s compensation, disability and other payments already made to Roy, court records show. This includes legal PPC during COVID.
If the award stands, member governments could find their insurance rates rising in the future, Bianchi said.
“Certainly any loss of this magnitude affects the rate,” said Bianchi.
Roy, now 33, has been through more than four surgeries since the accident. She has been unable to work, although she did work as a Lake Zurich police radio dispatcher for three months,
“She couldn’t do it. She is not capable of working,” the attorney said.