Pat Mackin and Jeanine Brudenell’s legal battle ended this week, but not their struggle.
The couple settled a lawsuit on Monday, providing financial help to pay for Mackin’s personal care attendant, his daily therapy sessions and a complete remodel of their house to make it handicap accessible. All are ramifications of his car crash that are not covered by insurance.
Theirs is a complicated tragedy, with ripples that reach out to people unconnected to the crash that left Mackin wheelchair-bound and unable to work.
It started when Alexandria Clark got intoxicated and decided to drive early one morning in December 2014. Mackin, a saxophone player, was going home from a gig with Jaybee and the Routine at the Minnesota Music Cafe in St. Paul when he had the bad luck of encountering Clark. She was not only drunk, she was texting her boyfriend while going 68 miles per hour on Snelling Avenue.
Clark hit Mackin broadside. He suffered a broken neck, brain trauma, a collapsed lung and lacerated liver, among other injuries. He can’t walk or talk, though he understands everything around him. It’s likely he will never play music again, and it even pains him to listen to it.
Clark did not have insurance. But Mackin’s attorney, Edward Gale, discovered that the vehicle was owned by Bradley Lund, a friend of Clark’s who let her drive the car. Lund, a feedlot owner from southern Minnesota, had more than $1 million in insurance, but that was not nearly enough to compensate for Mackin’s life-changing collision.
Shortly after Mackin’s crash, Lund drove his car across a frozen lake, crashed through the ice and died. He had left a substantial estate for his children, but Gale sued the estate and won virtually all of it for his clients.
“It’s the law in Minnesota that if you loan your car to someone, you are responsible for their actions,” said Gale. “Most people don’t know that. So, Lund’s children got nothing. It’s a mess for everybody. Everybody is mad. [Clark] basically destroyed two families.”
Gale hopes this story is a lesson for other drivers, on many levels. Obviously, it’s a lesson that drinking and driving, and texting while driving, can lead to unforeseen trauma for many people. Gale also wants people to recognize that people who drive uninsured or underinsured can jeopardize the financial well-being of entire families if there is a crash.
“If we wouldn’t have been able to find the insurance money, [Mackin and Brudenell] certainly would have lost their home,” Gale said. “The judge said this was such a tragic case because Pat is such a great guy and Jeanine is an angel.”
Clark pleaded guilty to three charges and served six months in the workhouse.
“She only served time because of my insistence,” said Brudenell, a Minneapolis police officer. “That’s not nearly enough.”
Since the crash, Brudenell has noticed the high number of people she stops who do not have car insurance, and it makes her mad and frustrated. She said officers are not allowed to tow the car, just warn the driver not to drive.
“For someone who doesn’t care, the law has no impact on them,” Brudenell said.
Mackin has played in many local bands over the years and is well known in the music community. He was also physically active, leading mountain hiking trips across the country. Now, Mackin is confined to a wheelchair, beholden to his wife and personal care attendants for everything.
The settlement will help, but Mackin needs care 24 hours a day, meaning many attendants. Their home needs to be completely remodeled to accommodate his wheelchair. Insurance stopped paying for daily physical therapy because Mackin was no longer progressing, so the couple pays for it from their own savings.
“At least it keeps him healthy and engaged and keeps him from going backward,” said Brudenell.
“It sounds like a lot of money, but it isn’t,” said Gale. “It will be used to pay for Pat’s care in the future, which will be substantially more than the amount of the settlement. It isn’t Easy Street.”
A trial over the amount was scheduled for this week. Before the settlement, Gale estimated Mackin’s expenses would exceed $10 million over the course of his life.
“Our lives have been changed forever by the irresponsible actions of one person, in one moment,” said Brudenell. “I try not to think about it too much, but I do sometimes and it makes me angry. There is not enough money in the world to give us our lives over again.”
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