The Statewide Grievance Committee signed off Thursday on an agreement that calls for Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra to take an ethics class because of a mistake he made representing a city woman in a 2007 slip-and-fall lawsuit.
Segarra didn't speak during the brief court hearing in Hartford, instead allowing his attorney, Steven Sigelman, to address the three-member committee.
Sigelman said that Segarra has acknowledged he made an error in not filing a notice of intent to sue the city of Hartford on behalf of Warnelly Martinez in 2007. Martinez has tripped on a cracked sidewalk on Prospect Avenue near Wendy's restaurant.
She hired Segarra because he was a Spanish-speaking attorney. At the time, Segarra was a member of the city counsel. The potential conflict did not come up at the hearing.
"(Segarra) has taken responsibility from the beginning that he made a mistake in this case. It is one error in 25 years of practice,'' Sigelman said.
Under the settlement, Segarra agrees to take one three-hour course in either ethics or professional responsibility over the next nine months. Attorney Patricia King, who represented the grievance panel, said that Martinez's lawsuit should have been filed against the city.
But because Segarra believed that the state statutes shifted the responsibility to the adjoining property owner, he erroneously never filed a notice of intent to sue the city.
Segarra eventually turned the case over to another attorney who got a $7,500 settlement from Wendy's. King said Martinez suffered serious injuries during the fall, leading to at least two surgeries. She said she piled up nearly $50,000 in medical bills.
Martinez, who entered the courtroom with the help of a cane, spoke through an interpretor. She tried to speak directly to Segarra but was told to address the committee.
"He should take time to think about my situation because for me it has been very difficult,'' Martinez said. "I couldn't work after the accident and I lost all of my savings."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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