A man whose 53-year-old wife died in a Maine motorcycle accident in 2014 has settled his claims against the construction contractor in Augusta that allegedly failed to inspect and repair a dangerous pothole that reportedly caused his wife to lose control of her bike.
The plaintiff had been riding a motorcycle separately from his wife in Augusta when he watched her strike the pothole and saw the bike go down. The couple had married just six weeks earlier, and they were traveling with another pair to see a home in Manchester they were preparing to purchase. His original wrongful death lawsuit was filed in 2015 in Kennebec County Superior Court, and it initially named not just the construction company but also the state, the state’s department of transportation, the city of Augusta, and a number of other defendants.
In the end, claims against all defendants other than the construction company were dismissed. This likely had to do with the fact that any claim against government agencies can be tough to prove, due to concepts like sovereign immunity and the difficulty of proving these entities owed a duty of care to the individual in question. But, as this case revealed, that doesn’t necessarily mean there are no other avenues of compensation worth pursuing.
The defendant construction company sought summary judgment from the court, arguing it was not in control of the section of the street on which the pothole existed and on which the decedent crashed. However, the trial court rejected that motion arguing summary judgment wasn’t proper because this issue was a question of fact for a jury, rather than a question of law for a judge. Furthermore, the trial court indicated it was undisputed that the motorcycle accident happened on a portion of the road that was within the defendant’s construction project area. Another question of fact remained as to whether the construction company was aware about the pothole prior to the crash or whether it should have known about it. In a series of sworn depositions, other motorcycle riders testified the pothole in question was so sizable that there was no way it could have been concealed or gone unnoticed.
This was a stretch of street over which 24,000 vehicles traveled daily and that was covered by around-the-clock police patrols. Yet, as the defense noted, there was no evidence there had ever been a report or complaint about the pothole in question prior to the crash. That would have established actual notice for the plaintiffs, but there was still an opportunity to present a case for constructive notice, which is when a defendant should have discovered the dangerous condition had they been using reasonable care.
The decedent reportedly worked in law enforcement for more than two decades before taking a job several years ago with the state’s Department of Health and Human Services. Loss of future income is one type of damages plaintiffs can claim in wrongful death cases.
Although the company did not concede liability, it settled the case just prior to trial (which is not all that uncommon) for an undisclosed amount.
If you are the victim of a Bangor car accident, contact Peter Thompson & Associates at 1-800-490-5218 for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights.
Widower settles with contractor over wife’s death from Augusta motorcycle crash, June 2017, By Betty Adams, CentralMaine.com
More Blog Entries:
Report: More Fatal Motorcycle Accidents in Maine So Far Than in All of 2016, Oct. 18, 2017, Bangor Motorcycle Accident Attorney Blog