The family of a Canton man who died when a car smashed into his bakery truck at 80 mph will receive a $1.25 million settlement from the bakery’s insurance company.
Sheldon Gotschall was making a delivery for Norcia Bakery July 3 at The Strip in Jackson Township when a car hit his truck so hard that the impact ripped open it’s gas tank, pushed it into a light pole and broke Gotschall’s spine.
Because his legs were paralyzed, he was unable to escape the truck as it was engulfed in flames. Witnesses said he was pounding on the window, begging for help, as the fire erupted.
The driver of the car, Sherah Bennett, 38 was subsequently ruled insane at the time of the crash and was committed in October to Heartland Behavioral Healthcare in Massillon.
The Plain Township woman told police after the crash that she was driving fast because God had told her to.
Only three weeks before the fatal wreck, she had smashed into a tractor-trailer parked at a rest stop off Interstate 71 in Turtlecreek. Her car was heavily damaged in that accident, so she rented the 2004 Ford Taurus she was driving when she hit Gotschall.
The Gotschall family’s lead lawyer, Allen Schulman of Canton, said he was “gratified that the family did not have to endure a difficult trial where they would (have been) forced to relive this horrible crash.”
Schulman associate Samuel J. Ferruccio said they were donating $5,000 of their fee to a memorial for Gotschall.
Schulman said Gotschall, 53, was a longtime friend and client. They met at a tavern while Gotschall was a Canton police officer. The lawyer says his pal “was a great guy, he loved life. He cared for his family deeply.”
The lawyers will take one third of the settlement, or $412,000. Schulman said he did not think his fee was excessive because of the amount of work that went into the case and because his experience and expertise enabled him to negotiate the deal.
“Well, the Timken president just received a $2.4 million bonus on top of his salary.” Schulman said, “so I don’t apologize to anyone for the work we did on behalf of the Gotschalls. If we had received nothing, our fee would have been nothing.”
Schulman said he was not sure what form the memorial will take, but thought it might be a scholarship or something to do with children. The family will make the final determination. (Anyone interested in contributing should contact Schulman at 234-214-6300)
Family members declined to comment. But the victim’s daughter said in November that she had sympathy for the unstable woman who killed her father.
I’m tired of the negative,” Heather Gotschall said. “I want something positive to come out of this.”
Schulman praised the bakery for carrying a large policy on it’s employees. He said the woman who hit Gotschall was covered only by a rental-car policy for $12,500.