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Negligent driver ordered to pay over $6 million

An Ellsworth man who lost his sight as the result of a traffic accident has been awarded a largely symbolic $6.25 million judgment against the man who caused the collision in December 2005.

After Randy J. Truckey, 41, Amery, failed to answer a civil complaint and didn't appear for an April 26 hearing, St. Croix County Circuit Judge Eric Lundell ordered him to pay $6,250,000 plus costs to Gerald Gutting, N4914 Hwy. 63, Ellsworth.

"(Truckey) has simply not responded," said Gutting's attorney, Steve Goff of River Falls. "He didn't answer the complaint, and this was a default judgment based on the amount of evidence present to Judge Lundell."

The judgment was docketed last week. Because Truckey wasn't insured, collecting such a large award will be difficult.

In a related case, on April 28 Judge Lundell suspended Truckey's driving license because he has not paid a $166 ticket for failing to stop at a stop sign. That ticket was issued as a result of the same accident.

Both Gutting, who was 65 at the time, and his wife Betty were injured in the Dec. 20, 2005, accident, which occurred shortly after 1 p.m. at the intersection of CTH T and Hwy. 64 in St. Croix County. A passenger in Truckey's vehicle--Travis A. Anderson, 23, Amery--died from injuries sustained in the accident.

According to the police report, Truckey, who was driving a GMC sport utility vehicle, was northbound on CTH T when he fell asleep, "blew" through a stop sign and struck a Dodge Intrepid driven by Gutting, who was westbound on Hwy. 64.

The Guttings were taken by ambulance to Holy Family Hospital in New Richmond and Gerald Gutting was later transported to Regions Hospital in St. Paul.

The lawsuit against Truckey was filed May 25, 2006, in St. Croix County. According to court records, Truckey was served with notice of the suit on June 7, 2006.

When Truckey didn't appear for the April 26 court date, Lundell awarded a default judgment of $1 million for past medical costs, $250,000 for future medical costs and $5 million for pain and suffering.

Goff said that, along with significant injuries to his left arm and leg, Gutting was permanently blinded: "How do you put a price on that?"

"It's been a hard case to deal with," said Goff. "(The Guttings) are just wonderful people, and he has the best attitude."

According to a report submitted to the court last June, Gutting's medical expenses totaled $811,730 then.

According to Internet court records, Truckey was found guilty last November of operating while suspending in Chippewa County and was found guilty in Clark County of drunk driving in March 2002.