Teen crash victim gets $100K settlement

Becky Vargo • Jul 21, 2015 at 12:54 PM

Jovani Viveros-Villa, 15, walked into the Ottawa County courtroom under his own power late Monday morning. His mother, Rosa Villa, was at his side and caregiver Aundrea Davis was close behind.

The boy wore a brace around his neck, but had no other visible signs of injuries. His caregiver said he was still recovering from leg, neck and closed head injuries.

“He’s only allowed to be on his legs for certain amounts of time,” Davis said. “We’re just there in case he needs help.”

Davis said she also assists taking Viveros-Villa to his speech and physical therapy sessions three times a week.

Viveros-Villa did not speak during the hearing in which his mother agreed to a $100,000 settlement from the defendant’s insurance company. The family’s attorney, Richard Kessler, said that is the maximum amount of money allowed by the defendant’s policy that the boy could get without going to trial.

Nearly one-fourth of the settlement money will go to legal fees and attorney costs.

Kessler said the settlement wouldn't affect any medical benefits that the boy was receiving, now or in the future.

The boy’s share of the settlement will be placed in a special fund that he can access at age 18, or with his mother’s permission.

The lawsuit was filed earlier this year against Margaret Gessner, 79, the driver of the vehicle that hit Viveros-Villa. It claimed negligence on her part.

The teen and his younger brother were standing in their driveway on Eighth Avenue, north of Arthur Street, when a Coopersville school bus arrived shortly before 7 a.m. on April 25. Police said the flashing red lights on the bus were activated and Viveros-Villa proceeded to cross the street to the bus, ahead of his brother.

The car driven by Gessner hit Viveros-Villa when he stepped into the street.

The teen suffered critical injuries and was taken by ambulance to Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids.

“I’m doing better,” he said after the court hearing. “Some days I’m feeling some pain.”

Viveros-Villa said he will be able to go back to school this fall. He was attending the New Options Alternative High School in Allendale.

Coopersville Area Public Schools Superintendent Ron Veldman said students were first bused to Coopersville High School, before transferring to a bus that took them to Allendale.

“I wanted to be a professional soccer player,” Viveros-Villa said.

The teen said he didn’t think that would be possible now, but maybe his leg would eventually be good enough to allow him to play again.

Davis said the boy is not allowed to do any jumping or running at this time. Viveros-Villa said he is also not allowed to play video games.

“I text and watch TV,” he said. “Basically, that’s it.”

Gessner has also been charged with a moving violation causing serious impairment, according to a spokeswoman at the Ottawa County Prosecutor’s Office. A pre-trial hearing for the criminal charge was scheduled for last week, but no other information was immediately available, according to the spokeswoman.

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