Prosecutors seek insurance claim in fatal hit and run
By Brent Curtis
STAFF WRITER | July 02,2013
State prosecutors seeking access to an auto insurance claim filed the day after a hit-and-run crash that killed a Mendon woman in Rutland in April are arguing against the insurance company’s attempt to block access to the claim.
In a five-page response filed in Rutland criminal court, Assistant Vermont Attorney General Ultan Doyle argued that prosecutors have a right of access to the GEICO insurance claim filed by the wife of former Rutland City attorney Christopher Sullivan.
“GEICO is a witness holding information pertinent to a criminal prosecution,” he wrote.
Doyle didn’t explain what prosecutors were looking for in the claim or why it might be valuable in the case against Sullivan, 53, who is charged with counts of leaving the scene of a fatal crash and driving under the influence with death resulting.
Sullivan, who pleaded innocent to those charges, allegedly struck and killed 71-year-old Jane Outslay before fleeing the scene on the night of April 10. The following day, he came to the city police department where he identified himself as the driver and turned over the 2004 Lexus sedan that police say was involved in the crash.
Also on April 11, according to court records, Sullivan’s wife filed a claim with GEICO.
In a motion filed last month, a lawyer for the insurance company asked a Rutland judge to quash the subpoena on the basis that the claim was protected by a number of legal exemptions including attorney-client privilege and insurer-insured privileges.
Neither the insurance company’s motion nor Doyle’s response indicate whether the damage to Sullivan’s 2004 Lexus sedan was reported before or after he told police he was the driver in the crash. The subpoena ordered by the attorney general’s office indicates that prosecutors don’t know the answer to that question, either, as the request seeks “the time the claim was reported, who reported the claim and any statements made by the policy holders.”
GEICO attorney Brendan Donahue also argued that prosecutors didn’t need the insurance records because they had interviewed Sullivan’s wife during a secret inquest hearing conducted before the former city attorney was arrested. Inquest hearings are closed-door court proceedings in which a witness answers a prosecutor’s questions under oath and in the presence of a judge.
“The state cannot make any showing that it is in substantial need of the information it seeks or that it is unable to obtain the equivalent information without undue hardship,” Donahue wrote. “The state has the benefit of the police investigation as well as the inquest testimony it gathered from various witnesses, including Mrs. Sullivan.”
Prosecutors say Sullivan was impaired by alcohol when he struck and killed Outslay, of Mendon, who was crossing Strongs Avenue at about 5:10 p.m. Investigators said the impact did considerable damage to the hood and windshield of Sullivan’s car — including a significant hole in the passenger side of the windshield — but Sullivan did not stop at the scene.
Instead, police say he drove to a parking lot in Rutland Town where he called his legal partner for advice before going home.
The court has set a trial ready date in Sullivan’s case for Jan. 15, 2014.
Sullivan served in City Hall as the city attorney and assistant city attorney for 19 years until 2007.