Fatal 2015 limo crash yields $6.1M settlement

Eight years after a fatal 2015 Cutchogue limo crash claimed the lives of four young women, the victims’ families and survivors of the incident have reached a $6.1 million settlement in a lawsuit against the limo company, limo driver, the limo manufacturer, the driver of the other vehicle and the Town of Southold, according to reports. 

The settlement was filed in Suffolk County Supreme Court last week, and specified the amounts each party and/or insurance company will pay. 

According to attorney Robert Sullivan, who represents the family of victim Lauren Baruch, Ultimate Class Limousine Inc. and limo driver Carlos Pino are each required to pay $1.5 million. Steven Romeo, the driver who hit the limo, will pay $500,000. 

The Town of Southold is responsible to pay $100,000 and the manufacturer of the 2007 Lincoln Town Car stretch limousine driven by Mr. Pino will pay the highest sum: $4 million.

“The real shame of it all is that the Town of Southold was able to escape with such a small payment,” Mr. Sullivan said. “The Town of Southold board is just morally responsible for what happened here. Legally, they were able to duck behind technicalities. That’s how the families feel.

“The families know that it was the Town of Southold that was warned that this accident was going to happen three years before it happened,” he continued, “and never did a thing to try to avoid it.” 

A group of eight women was visiting local wineries on the North Fork for a celebratory event on July 18, 2015, when Mr. Pino attempted to make a U-turn at the intersection of Route 48 and Depot Lane as he was leaving Vineyard 48 in Cutchogue. 

Mr. Romeo, of Southold, T-boned the limousine while traveling west along County Road 48. 

The crash took the lives of Brittney Schulman, 23, of Smithtown; Ms. Baruch, 24, of Smithtown; Stephanie Belli, 23, of Kings Park; and Amy Grabina, 23, of Commack.

The other four passengers, who were injured but survived, were Joelle Dimonti, 25, of Elwood; Melissa Crai, 23, of Scarsdale, N.Y.; Alicia Arundel, 24, of Setauket; and Olga Lipets, 24, of Brooklyn. 

A grand jury, which was empaneled for an extended time to study limo safety and make recommendations, ultimately determined that Mr. Pino was criminally at fault for the crash. Those charges were later dismissed by Suffolk County Judge Fernando Camacho who determined the U-turn was not illegal and Pino’s actions did not meet the standards of criminally negligent homicide. 

Mr. Romeo, the pickup truck driver, who told investigators he had been drinking beer at home in the hours before the crash, was initially charged with DWI the day after the accident and pleaded not guilty. 

He later pleaded guilty to a lesser charge, served a 90-day license suspension and paid a $500 fine. 

Following an October 2018 limo crash that killed 20 people in upstate Schoharie County, the Cutchogue crash victims’ families and survivors banded together to advocate for stricter limousine transportation regulations. 

This call for safety led to the state passing seat belt requirements, impounding of defective limousines, increasing penalties for illegal U-turns and enhancing GPS guidelines. 

Ed. Note: This article originally stated that Steven Romeo is a co-owner of Dimon Romeo Marine Services. According to owner Kristopher Dimon, Mr. Romeo is no longer involved in the business in any capacity and Dimon Romeo Marine Services is not involved in the settlement.