Nine months after crashing into Sweet Tomatoes—a popular West Newton restaurant—and killing two patrons, the driver in that tragic incident now faces not only criminal charges, but also a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the husband of one of those killed. The crash, which occurred on March 1, also left seven others injured.
It was announced in September that after a months-long investigation by the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office, the driver, Bradford Casler of Newton, had been indicted by a grand jury on two counts of vehicular homicide and one count of operating a motor vehicle to endanger.
News sources have learned that Casler had three previous serious crashes on his record between 1998 and 2010. Only three weeks before the fatal Sweet Tomatoes crash, he had also been cited in Brookline for failing to stop or yield, a charge which was upheld in a May hearing. Casler pleaded not guilty at his arraignment on the Sweet Tomatoes charges. It’s been reported that both sides are seeking a settlement, but if that doesn’t happen, a trial will begin next June.
Witnesses described Casler’s Volkswagen Tiguan passing them at extremely high speed as it ran a red light at the bottom of Chestnut Street in West Newton. Chestnut ends at the bottom of a hill in a T-intersection with Washington. The Sweet Tomatoes location was just across the street at the bottom of the hill.
Casler’s car crashed through the front of the restaurant, several tables, and even a steel column, striking the restaurant’s pizza ovens, which weigh nearly two tons, with enough force to shove them four feet from the impact. Two victims, a Newton man and a Watertown woman who were both picking up food, died at the scene. Seven others (four employees and three customers) were injured and taken to area hospitals.
Some details of the crash have been sealed before trial, but available reconstruction information suggests that the car was still moving at close to 50 mph when the engine shut down during the impact. Witnesses have also stated that the driver made no attempt either to brake or to warn those in his way before the crash.
The City of Newton has recently installed crash-resistant bollards (sturdy posts) in that location to prevent vehicles from reaching the sidewalk or the businesses beyond. Sweet Tomatoes, which had announced that it would reopen, remains closed. That’s the fate of many stores that are struck by vehicles, which happens surprisingly often: as many as sixty times every day.
When a person dies because of the recklessness or negligence of another, it’s possible for the survivors to sue the person who caused that death for damages. In this case, the husband of Eleanor Miele, one of those who died in the crash, has filed a claim against Casler for damages based on his negligence. The claim asks for compensation to cover funeral expenses as well as expenses for the husband’s loss of companionship. The value of any financial award, if the suit is successful, will be determined by a jury.
Wrongful death cases play an important part in our civil legal system, both to provide financial support to the survivors of victims and also to prevent those who cause harm from continuing to do it to others.
At Joel H. Schwartz, PC, we have experience with wrongful death cases. We know how difficult these lawsuits can be emotionally for survivors, but we also recognize how critically important they are to enable families to move on with their lives.
If you find yourself in the unfortunate position of needing help to pursue this kind of claim, give us a call to discuss your situation—free of charge. We’ll help you understand what needs to be done and how the case will proceed. Our number is 1-800-660-2270, or you can contact us online through the form below and someone will reach out to you at your convenience.