ROCKLAND, Maine — The father of the 5-year-old boy whose hand was severed in June when a jump rope he was holding in a car inadvertently was caught in the vehicle’s wheel won’t gain financially if he wins a lawsuit filed against the boy’s grandmother.
Anthony Pignone “cannot gain financially from the lawsuit,” attorney Daniel Kagan of the Lewiston firm Berman and Simmons told the Bangor Daily News on Friday. He said Pignone wanted to “set the record straight.”
The BDN has published several stories about the plight of the boy, Noah Keene of Rockland, after the accident. The boy’s mother and father are estranged and Pignone lives in Massachusetts.
Noah’s grandmother Sharon Setz, also of Rockland, was driving the boys in her car when Noah dangled a jump rope he had wrapped around his wrist out the car window and it got caught on the vehicle’s wheel. The accident severed his left hand and left him with a broken humerus.
Medical bills have mounted for Noah, Kagan said. Physicians were able to reattach the hand and are hoping nerves regenerate so he can regain use of it. The father was concerned about both Noah and his twin brother, Patrick, the attorney said, because Patrick has suffered psychological trauma from the incident and the recovery process.
Kagan does not represent Pignone. Kagan said he could not comment on the father’s custody status with the boys.
“He authorized me to contact you,” the attorney told the BDN, “but I don’t represent him personally. He hired me to represent the interests of the kids.”
At Pignone’s request, Kagan filed suit against Setz in an effort to get her automobile insurance company to pay for medical costs and damages, such as pain and suffering.
“The damages are horrendous,” the attorney said, and likely to exceed the maximum awards of $50,000 per person and $100,000 total per accident for automobile insurance.
Suing the insurance company is not a legal option, Kagan said. To seek a settlement, someone had to file suit against Setz, the driver and insurance holder, and Pignone believed it was better for him to do so, since Cassidy Keene, the boys’ mother, might be reluctant to sue her mother. Should the case go to court, an attorney representing the boys would work to argue that Setz was negligent in order to win damages, he said.
Robert Hatch, an attorney with Thompson & Bowie of Portland representing Setz, issued a statement Friday about the suit.
“Sharon [Setz] is, understandably, heartbroken by the lawsuit that has been filed against her. This was a tragic accident, the effects of which she deals with every second of every day,” Hatch wrote.
Setz has “devoted the last five years of her life serving as a primary caregiver for her grandchildren, and she will not let the lawsuit deter her from continuing to be a loving, caring grandmother to her grandsons during their long road to recovery,” Hatch wrote.
Pignone “was concerned about the mom being in a tough position,” Kagan said. “He knew he was setting himself up to be criticized” for suing the boys’ grandmother.
By law, Pignone could not gain financially from a settlement or jury award, Kagan said. Rather, a judge would control the funds and would make decisions about how it is dispersed, even years from now, he said. Pignone is concerned that both boys may need counseling.
“Dad’s not seeking to control the payment or the money,” Kagan said. “It’s a court-controlled process.”
Neither Kagan nor his firm will take a fee if the insurance company settles out of court, he said.
“My hope is that the insurance company pays in full. [But] they don’t pay because people are nice,” he said.
Hatch said he and Kagan are seeking a joint dismissal of the lawsuit, which means they hope to come to terms on a settlement without having to go before a jury or judge to resolve the matter.
Correction: An earlier version of this story requires correction. Noah Keene's father's first name is Anthony, not Patrick. Keene's mother and father are estranged, not divorced — they were never married.