MAADIA MONET BUNCH, As Administrator of the Estate of MARQUIS WILLIS, Deceased,
and As Mother and Guardian of the Property Of Their Infant Daughter LDW,
a Child Under the Age of Fourteen (14) Years



Date of Settlement: June 30, 2023
County: Kings
Justice: Robin Sheares

Plaintiff: Law Offices of Peter DeFilippis & Associates (attorney of record), and Peter DeFilippis, co-trial counsel, and Conrad Jordan, Jordan & LeVerrier, P.C., co-trial counsel to Peter DeFilippis & Associates. Appellate motions were handled by Joshua Annenberg, Esq.

Defendants: James Burke, Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker (for Venditti and IESI); Sam Amini, Scahill Law Group, for Garfield Gwood

Trial length: 19 days (4 days of jury selection)
Jury: 4 women, 2 men


Nicholas Bellizzi, P.E., Accident Reconstruction, Holmdel, NJ
William McDonald, Ph.D EMT/Paramedic, Staten Island, NY
Joseph Avella, Ph.D., Toxicology, Stony Brook, NY
Kristen Kucsma, M.A. Economist, Livingston, NJ
Gerard Catanese, M.D., Pathologist, Syosset, NY

John Desch, P.E., Accident Reconstruction, Riverdale, NJ
Michael Baden, M.D., Pathologist, New York, NY
Andrew Rentschler, Ph.D., Biomechanical Engineer, Penns Park, PA


Marquis Willis, a 22-year-old front-seat passenger in a BMW, who wore his seat belt, tragically lost his life in a devastating collision. The incident unfolded when Garfield Gwood, the defendant, was driving a BMW at a high speed. Gwood’s vehicle collided with a private sanitation truck, owned by IESI and driven by Roberto Venditti, as Venditti executed an unsafe left-hand turn at the controlled intersection of Utica Avenue and Avenue D in Brooklyn. Venditti’s actions flagrantly violated VTL Sec. 1141, as he negligently rolled through the intersection without stopping, directly placing himself in the path of Gwood’s oncoming lanes of travel. As a result of the impact, both the driver and passenger airbags in the BMW were deployed.

At the time of his unfortunate passing, Willis resided in his mother’s apartment along with his devoted long-time fiancé, Maadia Bunch, and their cherished nine-month-old daughter, LDW. Willis had made the difficult decision to leave high school after completing the 11th grade, and for several years leading up to the accident, he had been a dedicated union member working in the construction industry. He was widely recognized for his unwavering commitment as a father, demonstrating his love through taking care of parental duties and various household responsibilities. Now 29 years old and living in Manhattan with her daughter, Ms. Bunch courageously represented the interests of Mr. Willis’s estate and the property rights of her daughter as the plaintiff in the case.

The accident took place on July 9, 2014, at 1:35 am, following an informal birthday celebration for a friend. The gathering included Willis, Gwood, and approximately 20 other young men. They had been sharing a single, small bottle (25 ounces) of Hennessy cognac outside of Gwood’s apartment from 8 pm until after midnight. At the time of the accident, the BMW, with Dwayne McDonald as a back-seat passenger, was one of four cars traveling on Utica Avenue. This avenue had two travel lanes and a parking lane in each direction.

Multiple street camera videos, along with the truck’s dash cam footage, documented a collision of significant force between the front of the BMW and the rear-wheel area of the sanitation truck. The collision took place slightly over 3 seconds after the truck initiated its turn. At the time of impact, the large truck occupied both travel lanes and had not completely straightened out in line with Avenue D. Notably, approximately 1.5 seconds prior to the collision, the truck’s dash cam audio captured the distinct sound of Gwood, the driver of the BMW, engaging in heavy braking. This occurrence coincided with Gwood’s lane change from the right to the left.

Both the sanitation truck traveling north on Utica and the BMW traveling south had green lights at the time of the incident. According to Venditti’s account, as he reached the intersection at a speed of 5 mph, he noticed the headlights of the BMW approximately 100 yards away. Based on this brief observation, he made the judgment that it was safe to execute a turn with the 36-foot, 40,000 lb truck onto Avenue D. Afterward, he immediately shifted his focus elsewhere. Notably, Venditti admitted that he had no knowledge of the BMW’s actual speed, as he only glanced at it for a second, then looked away.

Gwood experienced fractures in his femur and wrist but managed to survive the accident. Unfortunately, McDonald succumbed to severe head trauma shortly after the incident. Willis, on the other hand, found himself trapped inside the smoldering and blazing BMW. Ten minutes after the collision, the first EMT to evaluate him observed that Willis was “alert” and his eyes responded to light. However, due to the extent of the entrapment, it took the NYCFD, utilizing the “jaws of life,” a total of 8 minutes to extricate Willis by removing the roof and doors of the vehicle. By 1:52 am, he was finally freed and transferred to an ambulance. Distressingly, at this point, Willis had no pulse and was in cardiac arrest. Despite resuscitation efforts, he was declared dead at the hospital at 2:10 am. An autopsy revealed several injuries, including a fractured femur and elbow, hemorrhages beneath the scalp, and a minor subarachnoid hemorrhage. The cause of death was determined to be a half-inch laceration of the aorta, leading to significant bleeding into his chest cavity.

Gwood’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was determined to be 0.09% during the testing of his ‘first drawn blood’ at the hospital. As a result, he pleaded guilty to vehicular manslaughter and was subsequently sentenced to seven years of imprisonment.

Before the trial, the plaintiff was granted summary judgment by Judge Francois Rivera, holding both drivers liable. Gwood for driving while impaired and Venditti for making an unsafe left-hand turn in violation of VTL sec. 1141. He tasked the jury with determining the apportionment of responsibility during the trial. That decision was argued for the Plaintiffs by Joshua Annenberg, Esq. and was upheld by the Second Department on an appeal and re-argument by the Defendants.


The plaintiff argued that, along with Gwood, Venditti bore responsibility for the accident, citing his own admission of briefly glancing away from the BMW and failing to adjust its speed and distance before making a left turn. According to the plaintiff’s accident reconstructionist, Gwood applied the brakes about 2 seconds before the collision, demonstrating a normal reaction time. Additionally, the expert testified that at the moment of impact, Venditti required an additional 5 seconds to completely clear the intersection.

Based on the sequence of the traffic lights, the plaintiff argued that Venditti hurriedly took his turn without ever stopping in an attempt to “beat the light.” The plaintiff claimed that this motive could explain why Venditti right after the collision provided a police witness statement stating that he turned left after waiting at a red light, even though video evidence contradicts this statement. Additionally, Venditti stated in the witness statement that he failed to use his turn signal. The defendant’s accident reconstructionist proposed a theory that Gwood was traveling at 76 mph prior to the collision and 55 mph at the time of impact. The defendant’s biomechanical engineer testified about the forces generated by such a collision.  The speed limit in the commercial area was unposted.

The dash cam video captured from the truck provided a comprehensive perspective, displaying both the approaching traffic and the interior of the cab moments before and after the collision. The footage clearly depicted the IESI passenger alerting the driver multiple times, cautioning him to be vigilant and “watch” i.e. keep an eye out for the incoming BMW. Regrettably, despite the repeated warnings, the driver disregarded them and carelessly maneuvered the slow-moving garbage truck directly into the path of the BMW.

In relation to comparative negligence, defense pathologist Michael Baden initially claimed that Gwood’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was actually 0.16% at the time of the accident. He argued that the 0.09% BAC result was obtained from blood drawn in the hospital almost four hours after the incident occurred. However, during cross-examination, he admitted that the 0.09% result was derived from blood drawn just 40 minutes after the accident, not four hours later when another sample was taken.

Furthermore, EMT and hospital records from immediately after the collision indicated that Gwood was alert, cooperative, clear-eyed, speaking in full sentences, and did not exhibit any signs of alcohol on his breath.

The plaintiff filed a motion to dismiss the comparative negligence defense against Willis prior to the summations, based on two primary grounds. Firstly, it was argued that there was no evidence indicating visible impairment in Gwood, who was only slightly above the legal limit for intoxication at .08%. Secondly, it was contended that Willis could not be held responsible for monitoring the alcohol consumption of the various party attendees, as evidenced by the significant differences in blood alcohol concentrations (BAC) between himself, Gwood, and McDonald. The court ultimately granted the motion, ruling that the issue had previously been decided and with no proof of visible intoxication, there was no legal basis to establish negligence on the part of Willis.


Regarding damages, the defense strongly contested the plaintiff’s assertions regarding the impact of Gwood’s forceful and loud braking on Willis’s state of mind, refuting the claim that it would have likely induced at least two seconds of pre-impact terror. Additionally, the defense challenged the plaintiff’s contention that Willis endured a minimum of 10 minutes of pain and suffering before losing consciousness at 1:52 am.

Dr. Baden, in support of the defense’s position, argued that the EMT who noted Willis as being alert must have mistaken his condition for that of Gwood’s. According to Dr. Baden, the severe head injuries sustained by the deceased rendered him unconscious instantaneously, while the aortic laceration resulted in his bleeding to death within a few minutes.

Furthermore, Dr. Baden cited what he claimed were specific entries on an EMT report from a police officer who witnessed Willis’s unresponsiveness prior to the arrival of the EMTs, bolstering his claims.

The Plaintiff presented a range of expert testimonies to support their case. Firstly, the EMT/Paramedic expert testified that the police officer did not provide any information for the EMT report. His name was on the report merely because that was the officer who secured the scene. Additionally, the Plaintiff’s pathologist stated that the head injuries sustained by Willis were not severe enough to cause unconsciousness. Furthermore, the pathologist explained that soft tissues obstructed blood flow from the aorta, allowing Willis to remain alive for more than 10 minutes. Lastly, the Plaintiff’s toxicologist provided testimony that despite Willis’s BAC level it would not have rendered him incapable of perceiving pre-impact braking or experiencing post-impact pain and suffering.

The Plaintiff’s economist also provided compelling testimony. Despite Willis’ modest job earnings between the ages of 20 and 22, the economist projected that he would have been able to earn over $700,000 from the date of the accident until his daughter’s 21st birthday. This projection took into account deductions for personal consumption and was based on U.S. labor statistics for construction workers without a college education. Furthermore, the economist valued Willis’ household services during that period at approximately $300,000. However, the defense unsuccessfully sought to dismiss this claim due to the lack of actual bills for replacement services being presented.

During the trial, Ms. Bunch provided compelling testimony regarding the issue of parental guidance, affirming that Willis devoted significant time to nurturing and engaging with his daughter. She emphasized that he actively cared for his child, spending quality moments playing and even watching educational shows together. This testimony sheds light on Willis’s committed involvement in his daughter’s life, showcasing his dedication to providing guidance and support.


Early in the trial, defendants Venditti and IESI offered $2M against a demand of $4M. Gwood already had offered the full $50,000 in coverage. The day before summations, Venditti and IESI agreed to settle with Mr. DeFilippis for $4M.

The post-trial discussion with the jurors revealed their consensus that Venditti bore the majority of responsibility for the accident due to his failure to yield the right of way. Moreover, they unanimously agreed that Willis was not at fault and did not exhibit any comparative negligence. The jurors empathized with Willis, acknowledging that he endured several seconds of extreme fear leading up to the impact and endured a distressing ten minutes, at least, of conscious pain and suffering.

The jurors formed a favorable opinion of Willis, recognizing his qualities as a devoted parent. They found it significant that even Gwood conceded he was a good parent and a reliable and loyal person. Consequently, they fully endorsed the economist’s recommendations for compensating his lost earnings and household services.


Gwood: State Farm ($50,000)
Venditti and IESI: Arch Insurance and AXA XL (excess)

Demonstrative Evidence

Street camera videos; dash-cam video; photos of the father with his newborn child, autopsy pictures were displayed by projector and screen by the plaintiff, and by court-system TV screen by the defendants.