09/16/04

Mine case settled for $2.5 million

News Image
The day before the trial was set to begin in the death of Amy Armstrong, the parties involved agreed to a settlement.

A total of $2.5 million will be shared by the seven plaintiffs and their attorneys, according to Michael Johns who represents Armstrong’s husband and two youngest children.  Amy’s parents and older two children are also plaintiffs.

“As far as we know,” he said, “it’s probably the highest amount paid for a wrongful death in the history of Cochise County.”

The original action asked for $10 million.

Amy Armstrong of Naco was 26 when she participated in the 2001 haunting of the Queen Mine Tour over Halloween.

She positioned herself in a niche in the darkened mine tunnel, straddling a bracing timber that gave way.  She fell to the ground and in the confusion was crushed between the wall and the train carrying visitors.  She died the next day, Oct. 31, in a Tucson hospital.

“Now, I guess there can be closure,” said Baker Olmstead, one of the mine guides on duty the night of the accident.  “Probably not a day goes by that I don’t stop to think of it.  It was a tragic accident.”

Defendants in the case are the city of Bisbee, who leases the mine from Phelps Dodge for tours, Phelps Dodge, and Bisbee Kiwanis Club who ran the Haunted Mine Tour that night as a fundraising event.

The settlement will be paid largely by the city through the Arizona Municipal Risk Retention Pool, and by Kiwanis’s insurance, according to John Doyle of Doyle-Mensing, Scottsdale.  Doyle was hired by the risk pool to defend the city.  The city will assume the Phelps Dodge expense because of an indemnification clause in the city’s contract with PD for use of the mine.

Doyle said the settlement is not final until approved by the risk pool and the Bisbee City Council. 

On Tuesday, Oct. 6, the council will hold a closed meeting, an executive session, to discuss the proposed settlement, according to City Attorney Gerald Grask.  He anticipates the council will consider approval at the regular meeting later that evening.

“Everyone was ready to go to trial,” Doyle said.

Final negotiations to settle developed over the past week.

“With the amount of money on the table, we could not gamble for the children,” said Perry Hicks, attorney for Amy’s two older children.

“With adults you can gamble,” he added, “but kids need security.”

A conservator for the children has been chosen and will be appointed at a hearing as soon as possible, Hicks said.  Then, after details are worked out, there will be another hearing to approve the structure and the payment of costs, he added.

“Part of the money will go into a structure to be paid out, hopefully, until the kids are 40,” he said.

Of the proposed $2.5 million settlement, $500,000 would be apportioned to each child, Hicks said.

The remaining $500,000 would be split 37-63 between Amy’s husband and her parents, $185,000 and $315,000. 

Darrell Armstrong has since remarried and lives in Sierra Vista.  The two smallest children are living with Amy’s parents, A.V. and Bonnie Reid of Willcox, and Amy’s older children live with their father Martin Main near Willcox.

“It took us two and a half years and lots and lots of trips to court to get this thing settled,” Johns said.

About 425 pleadings were filed in court, he said, and there was “a huge amount of paperwork” including 11 files at the court house.


The Bisbee Observer
Mine case settled for $2.5 million
By Virginia F. Hodge