Settlement reached in fatal Bayside Marina boat crash

By Ayala Ben-Yehuda

A $1.1 million insurance settlement has been reached in a group of lawsuits filed after a July 2002 boating accident in Little Neck Bay that claimed two lives, attorneys in the case said this week.

John Kondogianis, 36, of Elmont, L.I. and George Lawrence, 17, of Little Neck were both thrown overboard and killed when an 18-foot Sea Ray operated by Robert Arnold of Douglas Manor collided with a 19-foot Bayliner operated by Kondogianis in the waters off the Bayside Marina.

Kondogianis’ wife, Bellerose resident Marisa Rodgers, was severely injured in the July 11, 2002 accident.

Rodgers filed a lawsuit in October 2002 that eventually sought $14 million for physical and emotional damages from Arnold, who was 18 at the time of the accident in Little Neck Bay that killed his friend Lawrence, a Cardozo High School student, as well as Kondogianis, who grew up in Flushing.

Lawrence was riding in Arnold’s boat along with four other teens, including Kevin Burke of Little Neck. Burke, along with Lawrence’s family and Rodgers, had filed suit against Arnold and his father, Craig Arnold, owner of the boat. Burke suffered severe head injuries in the incident, the TimesLedger reported at the time. His lawsuit had also named the Kondogianis estate.

The lawsuits were originally filed separately but grouped together in federal court, said Joseph Giaimo, the Arnolds’ attorney.

Jack Glasser, an attorney representing Kondogianis’ estate, said insurance companies for the Arnolds had settled the case for $1.1 million.

“The judge is going to make a decision as to how the money is going to be split up,” said Glasser, whose assistant said the case had been settled within the last two months.

Rodgers’ son Nicholas, who was also named as a plaintiff, was guaranteed to receive $100,000, he said. Glasser said he withdrew the claim on behalf of the Kondogianis estate because the money would have gone to Rodgers and their son anyway.

Giaimo said his client Robert Arnold was attending college in New York state.

“It’s never going to leave him,” Giaimo said of the accident, calling the emotional scar “indelible.”

“At least we know that the people who were accidentally injured got paid,” Giaimo said of the settlement.

Attorneys for Burke, Rodgers and the Lawrence family could not be reached as of press time.

The awards would have been much higher had the cases gone to trial, Glasser said.

A Brooklyn federal court judge decided the federal Shipowners’ Limitation of Liability Act, which caps out-of-pocket damages at the monetary value of the defendants’ boat, could be applied in the case, Glasser said.

Reach reporter Ayala Ben-Yehuda by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

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