A settlement with the estate of Andy Dzwonchyk over the fatal shooting of Dzwonchyk by a Pennsylvania state trooper was finalized Thursday in Lebanon County Court.
The Dzwonchyk estate received $1.75 million in the civil lawsuit filed by the Philadelphia civil rights law firm Kairys, Rudovsky, Messing and Feinberg over the November 2021 shooting of Dzwonchyk by Trooper Jay Splain.
Appearing before Senior Judge Samuel E. Kline for the proceeding, which is required by law to finalize settlements of lawsuits involving death, were Dzwonchyk’s mother, Daphne L. Hoke, administrator of her son’s estate and on behalf of his survivors, and attorneys George W. Porter of Hershey and Bradley L. Smith of Philadelphia.
Amy Hastings, the mother of Dzwonchyk’s two children, also attended the 10-minute hearing. No representatives from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania were present at the hearing.
Porter, who is an estate attorney based in Hershey, represented Hoke as the administrator of her son’s estate, while Smith drafted the petition to get the civil lawsuit case settled in the wrongful death action.
Judge Kline said during the proceedings that $262,500 of the $1.75 million is to be designated as a survival action to pay off two mortgages owned by Dzywonchk and a third debt, with the balance designated for the wrongful death action.
When someone dies due to the negligent or intentional action of another, there are two types of claims that may be brought under Pennsylvania law: “wrongful death” and “survival.”
Wrongful death claims cover losses suffered by dependent spouses, children, and parents due to their relative’s death.
Survival claims cover losses the decedent could have claimed had he survived, such as pain and suffering if death wasn’t immediate, medical bills, and past and future wage loss.
Pennsylvania law requires court approval of wrongful death and survival claims.
Judge Kline thanked Hoke for attending the hearing, which he said was important so that certain questions could be asked by her attorneys and answered by her before he agreed to approve the settlement.
After answering several questions from her attorneys about how they handled the case, Kline said he’d sign the settlement and wished good luck to Hoke and her family.
A settlement in the Dzwonchyk case had been reached with the state on Thursday, Sept. 1, just three days after Lebanon County District Attorney Pier Hess Graf cleared Splain of any criminal wrongdoing. The Dzwonchyk shooting was the fourth of Splain’s career over a 15-year span and the second to occur in Lebanon County within an 18-month period.
As first reported by the New York Times in January, Dzwonchyk was the fourth Pennsylvanian to be fatally shot by Trooper Splain. The first fatal shooting occurred in Lehigh County in 2007; the second in Northampton County in 2017. The third occurred in Lebanon County in March 2020, when Splain shot Charity Thome in Jackson Township following a car chase through the county.
In August 2021, Philadelphia law firm Kline and Specter filed a federal civil rights lawsuit on behalf of the Thome estate against Splain. The Thome case is still pending in federal court, and there have been no developments reported by the court since Dec. 14, 2021.
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