State Sen. Chris Kapenga, R-Delafield, is being sued for causing “catastrophic injuries” to the legs of a Janesville man when the lawmaker struck him with his car on Interstate 94 in Jefferson County in January, according to documents obtained by The Gazette.

A crash report by the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office indicates Kapenga caused serious injury to Frederick Butler, a commercial truck driver and Janesville resident, after Kapenga’s 2017 Tesla hatchback struck a metal utility cart that had fallen from the back of Butler’s semitrailer truck at about 8:47 a.m. Jan. 12 along Interstate 94 in Farmington.

Jefferson County sheriff’s Deputy Bill Dandoy reported seeing a group of “good Samaritans” assisting Butler as he lay on his side with injuries to both of his legs. Dandoy said Butler told him he was struck by the cart, not Kapenga’s car.

Dandoy said Kapenga claimed he had had been talking to his wife by phone through his car’s Bluetooth system but hung up just prior to the crash. He said he didn’t see the cart until a moment before impact.

One witness, who was driving on the highway, said the vehicle driven by Kapenga had ample time to avoid the cart.

According to the civil complaint filed by Butler’s attorneys, one of the straps securing the cart was severed “presumably by equipment on the trailer,” which led to the cart falling off the trailer. This prompted Butler to pull over and attempt to retrieve the nearly 5-foot-by-5-foot cart, which had landed in the right lane of the Interstate.

When Butler got out of his truck wearing a lime green safety sweatshirt, he attempted to pull the cart from the roadway. While other vehicles changed lanes to avoid Butler, Kapenga collided with the cart at an approximate speed of 76 mph, propelling it into the guardrail and then Butler, according to the complaint.

Butler and Travelers Property Casualty Company of America are suing Kapenga for an unspecified amount of money to cover compensatory damages related to Butler’s injuries. The complaint argues that Butler experienced pain and suffering “as a result of Kapenga’s negligence” and lost wages at the construction company for which he drives. Butler and his attorneys also seek compensation for medical expenses incurred since the crash and in the future.

Kapenga could not be reached for comment Monday.

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