Father of Manhasset men who died in car crash plans to sue Suffolk County: filings

Robert Pelaez
James Patrick Farrell Sr., whose sons died in a car crash in July, plans to file a lawsuit against Suffolk County, according to a notice of claim. (Left photo from Steve Cunha, University of Pennsylvania/Right photo courtesy of the University of Scranton)

The father of two Manhasset men who died in a head-on car collision in Quogue over the summer filed a notice of claim to sue Suffolk County for up to $40 million, according to a notice of claim.

The legal documents blame Suffolk County for inadequate roadway maintenance and claims the county failed to install a “jersey barrier” on a section of the roadway, which is designed to prevent vehicles from crossing over the center of the highway.

The litigation lists James Farrell Sr. as the plaintiff, who is represented by the Garden City-based law firm Sullivan, Papain, Block, McGrath, Coffinas & Cannavo P.C.

According to the notice of claim, the deaths of the brothers resulted in “the carelessness, recklessness, gross negligence, negligence and reckless disregard for the safety of others”, by the county.

“For years the COUNTY OF SUFFOLK and its Engineering Department have not been proactive in addressing the deplorable conditions of their roadways, especially Montauk Highway,” the filing reads. “The COUNTY OF SUFFOLK contends that its roads are ‘not that bad’ while Suffolk County residents know better.”

Farrell also cites the suffering, injuries, along with funeral, burial, and wake costs of his two sons in the litigation.

Brothers James Farrell Jr., 25, and Michael, 20, were among five people killed in the crash on July 24 around midnight.

The crash also took the lives of Manhasset resident Ryan Kiess, 25, their Uber driver Farhan Zahid, 32, and Justin Mendez, 22, who veered out of the two-lane Montauk highway in a red Nissan Maxima and collided into their vehicle.

Quogue Police Chief Christopher Isola said a radar reading from an officer who saw Mendez heading west before the crash recorded his car traveling at 55 mph. The speed limit at the site of the crash is 40 mph.

Isola also said some marijuana was found in the passenger compartment of Mendez’s vehicle, but he did not say how much or whether the drug played any role in the crash.

The crash is still under investigation by the Quogue Police, New York State Police, the National Transportation Safety Board and the state Attorney General’s Office. 

The filings also claim the county failed to periodically review and study the crash area for any potential hazards or traffic patterns that could result in crashes along with failing to provide necessary warning signage and lights to alert drivers of the curve around the crash area. The filings also claim the county did not include a “safe zone” around the crash area, which would allow drivers to pull over.

Efforts to reach Farrell for further comment on the matter were unavailing.

A press representative from Suffolk County said that officials are unable to comment during pending litigation.

A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, where he captained the men’s lacrosse team for the 2018 season, James went on to live in New York City and work as an analyst at Mack Real Estate Group. Michael, following a similar path, studied finance and real estate at Villanova University.

An estimated 5,000 mourners attended the wake and funeral of the brothers held over a month ago, according to clergy members of The Archangel Michael Church. The brothers were laid to rest at Nassau Knolls Cemetery in Port Washington days after the crash.

John K. Lardas, the presiding priest at The Archangel Michael Church, spoke over a PA system to the families, friends, classmates, teammates, fraternity brothers and neighbors of the young men at the public wake.

“In real estate, it takes years to build up one’s portfolio,” Lardas said, “to get that one investment that sets you for the rest of your life. James and Michael are now discovering the best real estate that exists – the kingdom of heaven.”

The lone survivor of the crash, Brianne Maglio, 22, of Garden City, remains in critical condition.

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Robert Pelaez

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