Mo. fire truck driver, victims’ families sue Kansas City to pay $32M for deadly crash
The lawsuit says the city violated its collective bargaining agreement with the union by withdrawing representation for the firefighter after initially providing it
By Andrea Klick
The Kansas City Star
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A lawsuit filed Friday claims Kansas City owes $32.4 million to victims’ families and building owners after withdrawing legal representation for the driver who crashed a Kansas City fire truck into a vehicle and building in December 2021, killing three people.
According to the lawsuit, which lists the victims’ families, the fire department union and firefighter and driver Dominic Biscari as plaintiffs, the city violated its collective bargaining agreement with the union by withdrawing Biscari’s legal representation. The city, the suit argues, should bare the cost of the settlement.
“Biscari, as a non-lawyer, did not understand potential defenses available to him,” the lawsuit said, “or the means by which to assert and provide said defenses.”
Biscari was originally provided legal representation by the city, but it was later withdrawn. The fire department’s union, International Association of Firefighters Local 42, could not find a previous case in which the city refused or withdrew legal representation for another fire department employee, the lawsuit said.
Counsel for Local 42 filed a grievance in June, but, according to the lawsuit, the city has refused to hear it.
On Dec. 15, the Pumper 15 Biscari was driving had its lights and sirens on when it entered the intersection of Westport Road and Broadway Boulevard, traveling at 50 mph in a 35 mph zone. Biscari’s truck hit a Honda CRV, and the crash pushed both vehicles northwest where they struck a pedestrian and slammed into a building.
Michael Elwood and Jennifer San Nicolas, who were in the Honda, and Tami Knight, the pedestrian, were killed. Knight’s boyfriend, Alexander Llera, was injured.
After the incident, the victims’ families, Llera and the owners of the building that was destroyed filed lawsuits against the city and Biscari.
On Thursday, Kansas City’s City Council approved the transfer of $1.8 million from its general fund to help pay for lawsuits related to the incident.
Earlier this month, Judge Jennifer M. Phillips approved the $32 million arbitration award, which included $9 million for Elwood’s parents, $11 million to Knight’s mother, $9 million to San Nicolas’ mother and $2 million to Llera. The settlement also included $1.4 million to the company that owns the destroyed building.
Retired Judge Miles Sweeney, who oversaw the arbitration proceedings in October, found Biscari’s driving to be “dangerous and reckless.” A medic also warned the department about Biscari’s driving months before the incident.