Three lawsuits filed against a Takoma Park teenager found responsible for a fatal collision on East West Highway in Montgomery County last year have been settled for an undisclosed amount.
Two of the lawsuits alleged that Michael Schoenfeld, 17, negligently caused the deaths of his friend and passenger Irn Williams, 16, and of John Wert, 40, a Potomac businessman. Williams and Wert were killed when a Subaru Outback operated by Schoenfeld slid out of control while going almost 70 mph along a curvy stretch of East West Highway between Wisconsin and Connecticut avenues.
The third lawsuit was filed by the father of Hartley Abraham Jr., who was one of Schoenfeld's teenage passengers and was injured in the collision.
Montgomery prosecutors said that Schoenfeld was driving five friends home from summer school classes at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School on July 14, 1998, and that he purposely swerved his parents' Subaru from side to side before it spun out, flipped and landed on Wert's pickup. Matthew Waymon, 16, also died in the collision.
Schoenfeld was released this week from a juvenile detention facility where he was ordered to spend 30 days, said his attorney in the criminal case, David Driscoll.
After an emotional four-day trial, Montgomery District Court Judge Eric M. Johnson found Schoenfeld responsible--the Juvenile Court equivalent of guilty--for three counts of vehicular manslaughter and the traffic offense of reckless driving.
The lawsuits were settled as part of a comprehensive private arbitration agreement signed this month, said Kenneth Berman, the attorney for Wert's widow, Mary Wert, and their three children. The agreement also covered injuries suffered by a woman and her two small children when the Subaru struck their Acura, Berman said.
It could not be learned yesterday whether there were other parties to the agreement.
Schoenfeld's attorney in the civil cases, James Wilson, said he could not disclose the amount paid out of the insurance policy on the Subaru Outback owned by Schoenfeld's parents because the agreement was considered private.
But Berman said insurance did not cover all of the damages awarded in the agreement, which was finalized by retired Circuit Court Judge William Miller. Some of the money will be covered by individuals' policies covering collisions with underinsured motorists, Berman said.