Plandome Heights Family Files Claim Against Quogue PD, Suffolk County

Over a month after the tragic accident in Quogue that killed five, including three Manhasset High School alums, a memorial for the beloved young men still stands on Montauk Highway where the accident happened. (Photo by Jennifer Corr)

Twenty-year-old Michael and 25-year-old James Farrell were on top of the world. Michael Farrell was a full-time business student at Villanova University, according to his LinkedIn page, and James Farrell, while he was a student, was the captain of the University of Pennsylvania’s lacrosse team during the 2018 season. They had their wholes lives in front of them.

But their lives were tragically cut short, along with their friend Ryan Kiess, 25, in an accident that occurred the night of July 24 on Montauk Highway in Quogue. All three of them, who in an Uber, were heading out to go dancing with Kiess’ girlfriend Brianna Maglio, 25, of Garden City, were Manhasset High School alums and were known as local lacrosse stars. The accident left Maglio in critical condition. Uber driver Farhan Zahid, 32, of Bay Shore, and Justin Mendez, 22, of Brookhaven, also perished in the head-on collision.
And according to the Farrell family, and their legal representation from Sullivan Papain Block McGrath Coffinas & Cannavo P.C., this was an accident that could have been prevented.

Brothers 20-year-old Michael and 25-year-old James Farrell, along with Ryan Kiess, 25, were the Manhasset High School alums killed in the Quogue crash. (Contributed photos)

The claimant James Patrick Farrell, the father of the Farrell brothers, has filed a notice of claim against the Incorporated Village of Quogue and the Quogue Village Police Department, as well as Suffolk County. He, and his legal representation, alleges that there were several steps that could have been taken to prevent the head-on collision.

According to a press conference held by the Quogue Village Police Department, there was marijuana found in the Nissan Maxima driven by Mendez. Speed is also believed to be a factor in the accident, as it’s estimated that he may have been driving 55 mph in a 30 mph zone. Police say that the officer who witnessed Mendez made a U-turn to try to follow him, but the crash happened seconds later. A witness also reportedly told police that Mendez turned off his headlights before the accident.

The claim filed by James Farrell is a legal document required by New York State law to be prepared and served before a lawsuit can commence against a municipal or other governmental entity. James Farrell is seeking $40 million in damages from both the county and the village. The county, the suit alleged, “was careless, reckless and negligent in failing to conduct an adequate study/audit of the ‘crash area’ and its surrounds on Montauk Highway at the ‘crash area’ and for one half mile east and west of the crash area.”

In addition, the county was charged with not making that stretch of road safe with traffic calming measures, and failing to periodically study and review the area, claiming that multiple crashes occurred there. It is also alleged that the curve where Montauk Highway meets Quogue Street—the crash, according to the police report, occurred 100 feet west of the intersection—should have had a barrier installed in the center roadway to prevent vehicles from crossing over. It also failed to provide bumps and warning signs/lights to warn motorists of the dangers of the area.

Neighbors in the area told the Manhasset Press that the road there is dangerous, and speeding is a problem. They agreed that something needed to be done to keep motorists safe there. A representative from Suffolk County told the Manhasset Press that they were unable to comment due to pending litigation.

The claim faulted the village and its police department with “failing to properly follow established and recognized standards and procedures for motor vehicle pursuits and following motor vehicles; in failing to have and/or implement proper standards and/or procedures for motor vehicle pursuits/high speed motor vehicle pursuits.” It went on to charge that the officer improperly followed the Nissan driven by Mendez, 25. The claim also faulted the officer for “failing to break off the pursuit/following of the Mendez vehicle as the risk of pursuing/following the Mendez vehicle in light of its actions was too great and unjustified given the physical location of the pursuit and the time of day of the pursuit; in failing to recognize the danger to innocent people should the police pursuit/following of the Mendez vehicle predictably encourage/cause Mendez to increase his vehicle’s speed and attempt to evade the pursuing police vehicle.”

The Village of Quogue and the Quogue Village Police Department did not return a request for comment.

The Manhasset Press, after making an attempt, was not able to receive a comment from the Farrell and the Kiess families.


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