Saratoga County

Headaches mount for couple whose house was destroyed

Leslie Grossman Brown and husband Randy have led an itinerant life since October 2006, when a drunk
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Leslie Grossman Brown and husband Randy have led an itinerant life since October 2006, when a drunk driver plowed through the middle of their Rowland Street house in a spectacular late-night crash.

They’ve moved five times in 2½ years while dealing with the issues created by the loss of their house. Now, a rebuilt house is ready, but the problems aren’t over.

Late Friday, contractor Galarneau Builders of Saratoga Springs agreed to let them move in by Apri 1, even though Galarneau is still owned money by the Browns’ insurance company.

But earlier in the day, it had been unclear whether they could move this weekend, even though they must leave their current rental by April 1.

“It’s been a nightmare,” said Grossman Brown, a social worker with the Saratoga County Mental Health Department — a costly nightmare that has included a legal battle with their insurance company, State Farm, that ended in a mediated settlement. Grossman Brown said State Farm still owes them money, though she wouldn’t say how much.

She said she’s been working two or three part-time jobs to meet the cost of rent, loans and legal expenses, while her husband is working part-time at Lowe’s in addition to a full-time job at the Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory.

State Farm spokeswoman Freda Liaicona said the company won’t comment on the specifics of individual claims.

“We are sympathetic to our policyholder during this difficult time, and it is our intent to have them back in the their home as soon as the process allows,” Liaicona said.

Based on Friday’s agreement, the Browns are moving in this weekend. They have been storing some boxes in the house’s garage.

Their odyssey began on Oct. 7, 2006, when Grossman Brown was awakened at 4:06 a.m. by a piece of sheetrock falling on her head. “It’s something you just can’t process,” she said.

Downstairs, there was a car-sized hole that went all the way through the house.

A car driven by Danielle M. Schrade, then 21, of Ballston Spa, had failed to negotiate a curve near the village line. It went off the road in a place where several houses are located close to the road, sheering the front porch off of one house, then going right through the middle of the Brown house and finally hitting the garage of a third house. Grossman Brown’s pet pot-bellied pig was killed.

Police charged Schrade with drunk driving, and she later pleaded guilty. She was ordered to pay $78,000 in restitution, but Grossman Brown said they settled with her family for a fraction of that.

The Browns moved into a hotel, then lived with friends or had rentals.

The house was so damaged that it had to be demolished, though State Farm initially took the position that it could be repaired. The house was finally taken down last August. New construction started in October, and the house is now habitable, though some exterior work remains.

The old house dated from about 1910. Grossman Brown said the couple had thoroughly remodeled it since buying it in 1991, making the loss all the harder.

“I think it’s hard for people to see a nice new house and they figure insurance has paid for it, when it’s been really awful,” Grossman Brown said.

The new house isn’t the only reminder of the crash in that area. Next door, at 52 Rowland St., the porch that was sheered off remains under repair, with insulation exposed.

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