, Newburyport, MA

November 14, 2011

Injured officer sues club, driver

By David Rogers
Staff writer

NEWBURYPORT — A $500,000 civil case brought by West Newbury police Sgt. Daniel Cena against a drunken driver and the private Neptune Club, for its role in the drunken driving crash that seriously injured him in February 2007, is continuing to inch closer toward a possible trial date.

Cena's leg was severely broken after a car driven by Rowley resident Robert Nolan crossed the center line and smashed into Cena's cruiser on Route 1 on the night of Feb. 5. At the time of the accident, Cena was a patrol officer for Newbury Police Department. The severity of the crash broke Cena's left tibia and fibula bones and resulted in his missing significant time from the force. By the time he was able to resume his police duties in June 2008, he transferred to the West Newbury Police Department, filling a vacant sergeant position.

Cena joined the West Newbury police force as a dispatcher at the age of 19. He eventually earned a criminal justice degree from UMass Lowell and became a reserve police officer in 2003. He joined the Newbury Police Department in 2003 where he attained the rank of sergeant.

Dolan eventually pleaded guilty to drunken driving charges and recklessly and negligently causing serious bodily injury.

Cena then filed a suit against Nolan, seeking damages. According to court records found at Newburyport Superior Court, Nolan said the Newburyport-based Neptune Club, operated by the Neptune Veteran Fireman's Association, served him up to nine 12-ounce beers. That resulted in his having a blood alcohol level of 0.24 at the time of the crash.

Cena then added the club to the lawsuit. Cena's attorney claimed that by over-serving Nolan to the point where his blood alcohol level was three times the current state limit of 0.08, the Neptune Club acted negligently and recklessly and was a factor in the crash that almost cost Cena his career.

The Neptune Club, located on Hancock Street, is one of four private clubs in Newburyport, the others being the North End Boat Club, the Elks Club and the Dalton Club.

Cena, the brother of World Wrestling Entertainment wrestler John Cena, decided to seek damages against the club for its role in the accident and through his lawyers sued them for $500,000, including $109,000 in lost wages and $42,000 in medical expenses, according to court documents.

Court records show a lengthy trial of motions, findings and hearings. But in January of this year, Judge Richard Welch approved an ex parte finding that allowed Cena to seek damages of $500,000 against the club. Earlier this month, a final pretrial hearing was scheduled for later this month and could be followed by a trial date in early 2012.

Calls to Cena, his attorney and the Neptune Club's attorney were not returned in time for this report.