A couple whose infant daughter was killed by a falling tree limb in Central Park has won a $13.75 million settlement, ending a decade-long legal battle with the city and two non-profits that run the park and zoo, The Post has learned.
Michael Ricciutti and wife Karla del Gallo had stopped to snap a picture with little Gianna Ricciutti in front of the Central Park Zoo, when an 18-inch-diameter branch suddenly snapped off a honey locust tree 25 feet above them, smashing into del Gallo and the 6-month-old baby cradled in her arms.
Little Gianna was pronounced dead at the hospital. The critically-injured mom was in a medically-induced coma for weeks.
“She didn’t get to call us Mom and Dad. She can’t go to school. She didn’t get to take her first steps. So much was taken from her. Everything was taken from her,” a weeping Michael told The Post on the first anniversary of his baby’s June 2010 death.
The couple filed a $50 million claim in 2011 against the city; the Central Park Conservancy, the Wildlife Conservation Society, which operates the zoo; and Beucler Tree Experts of Tenafly, NJ, which the society had hired to do tree work.
The case was settled in November, with insurance companies for the Wildlife Conservation Society on the hook for $10 million of the settlement; Beucler paying $3 million, and the city and the conservancy shelling out the remaining $750,000.
Ricciutti and del Gallo, 41, have gone on to have two more kids, and the family moved from the tri-state area. Gianna would have turned 11 years old this month.
Del Gallo suffered lingering cognitive problems, the couple has said.
Falling tree limbs in and around Central Park have left a trail of wrecked lives — and big legal payouts.
In 2013, Google engineer Sasha Blair-Goldensohn, 44, whose spine was partially severed by a 100-pound oak tree limb that fell on him along Central Park West, won an $11.5 million settlement against the city.
That same year, the city agreed to pay $3 million to the family of Elmaz Qyra, who was killed in February 2010 by a falling branch in Central Park. A Queens woman, Roberta Colores-Martinez reached a $750,000 settlement from the city and two private tree companies after a falling limb fractured her skull in May 2010.
In August 2017, tragedy struck again when Tory Burch executive Anne Monoky Goldman was struck by a 3,000-pound tree while walking along West Drive near West 62nd Street with her sons, ages 4 and 2, in a stroller, and her 2-month-old infant strapped to her chest.
Goldman, 42, was left with traumatic brain injury, a concussion, spinal fractures, including a vertebrae “split in four places,” and a lingering fear she could be left paralyzed if she suffers more physical trauma, according to court papers. Her youngest suffered a skull fracture. She was forced to stop breastfeeding.
The fashion director, who somehow shielded her children from more serious injuries, and her family filed a $200 million claim against the city shortly afterward.
The case is ongoing, said her lawyer, Jordan Merson, who added Goldman has post-traumatic stress disorder from her extensive injuries, and lives with the fear “she could be a full quadriplegic if anything goes wrong.”
Four months later, Goldman was plagued by nightmares, still couldn’t hold her baby, was unable to dress herself or go out on her own, and hadn’t been able to read or hold a book, according to a deposition she gave in the Manhattan Supreme Court case.
And almost every tree had become a terror to her oldest boy, court records show.
“This tree is leaning. Do you think it’s going to fall over?” he would ask.
Author : Kathianne Boniello