The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

September 13, 2006

MSU settles in Michigan crash

University, insurance company to pay $5.25 million

MANKATO — Minnesota State University and an insurance company have agreed to pay a total of $5.25 million to settle potential lawsuits resulting from a school-related crash last year.

The settlement was announced Wednesday, just hours after a nine-hour mediation session Tuesday involving 20 lawyers and several family members of three Minnesota State University students killed in the Michigan crash on May 17, 2005.

Two students seriously injured in the incident, which involved a team of students traveling to Detroit for a college engineering competition, were included in the settlement. How the money will be distributed between the people involved was not disclosed.

Nick Frentz, a Mankato lawyer involved in the case, said the settlement was a positive one for both the families and the university. He said the families involved appreciated the way the case was handled by the university.

Frentz represents the family of Chad Wilson, who was killed in the crash, and Benjamin Gruenzer, one of the two students seriously injured. The families of Wesley Loutsch and Jamie Schlachter, the two remaining students killed, and Scott Rector, the remaining injured student, were represented by other law firms. Rector was driving the university van that crossed a median on Interstate 94 in Chickaming Township, Mich., and crashed head-on with two semis.

“This was worked out in a way that I honestly believe shows respect to both the families and the university,” Frentz said. “This was one of the most emotional, yet satisfying, cases of my career.”

A total of 15 students and one MSU faculty member, Gary Mead, were traveling to Detroit to compete in the national Society of Automotive Engineers Formula Series. The students had built a race car for the event, which was being towed in a large trailer behind the van Rector was driving. Another van was following Rector, and the students in it witnessed the deadly crash.

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