Lawsuit in fatal ’02 hit-run case goes to trial

Patricia Hartman, 43, was waiting for her boyfriend to pick her up in the West Loop a routine the couple had followed for nearly 15 years — when she was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver.

Now, two years later, a jury heard testimony Friday in a civil wrongful-death lawsuit that claims a driver for a South Side waste hauling firm ran over the Skokie woman and then fled the scene. Hartman’s boyfriend and executor of her estate, Brian O’Donnell, filed the lawsuit, which seeks more than $50,000 in damages from the driver, Robert Dabisch, 47, of Chicago Ridge, and his employer, Premier Waste & Recycling.

Roger LeRoy, an attorney for Dabisch and the firm, declined to comment. But to police and in court documents, they have denied the allegations. No one has been charged criminally in the case.

Denies being in area

Hartman, an assistant vice president for Aon, was to meet O’Donnell at Randolph and Jefferson after work Sept. 23, 2002. But she was struck by what witnesses described as a red dump truck as she crossed Jefferson, police said.

Chicago Police investigator Roman Czygryn said in an interview Friday that he centered on Premier after asking a truck driver in the area if any firm working downtown had red dump trucks. In court testimony before Judge John Morrissey, he said he went to Premier’s truck yard and photographed some trucks similar to witness descriptions.

Dabisch had been working the day of the accident on a job site at 10 S. Wacker, but Dabisch told police he had not been driving in the area of the accident, Czygryn said.

In court, O’Donnell’s attorney, Paul Nemoy, showed video surveillance tapes from a White Hen in the area that appeared to show part of a truck with similarities to the pictures Czygryn took. Czygryn called the matching features, including an external gas tank, “rare” for a dump truck.

But on cross examination, Czygryn admitted he found no evidence any Premier truck had been in an accident.

And he agreed that no witness had initially reported seeing Premier’s logo on the truck or that part of the cab was gray.

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