PARIS — A jury Wednesday awarded a Sumner motorcyclist injured in a 2010 collision with $1.77 million for pain and suffering and financial losses.
Benjamin Church, 54, was critically injured and spent 33 days in a coma after an Aug. 29, 2010, collision on Route 160 in Porter. The crash involved his friend, Patrick Cadigan, who was killed, and Donald Burrell of Lebanon, N.H. In a civil suit this week in Oxford County Superior Court, Church sought damages from both Cadigan and Burrell.
The jury found Burrell not responsible for the accident and not liable for damages. Responsibility for the award defaults to the estate of Cadigan.
Church's attorney, Edward Dilworth, said after the decision that he and his client were happy with the verdict, even though it was lower than the more than $2.7 million sought. He said the $1.7 million demonstrated that the jury understood the damage done to Church.
Church was riding his motorcycle with friends when he and Cadigan got behind the rest of the motorcycle group and drove faster to catch up. While rounding a corner, Cadigan realized he was going too fast and started braking, according to testimony by Maine State Trooper Daniel Hanson. Hanson said Cadigan crossed into the path of Burrell's Honda CR-V too late for Burrell to react.
Cadigan was thrown into the windshield of the Honda. His motorcycle clipped Church's, and Church was also thrown from his bike, hitting Burrell's vehicle before landing in a ditch, according to testimony.
The estate of Patrick Cadigan has not disputed that his actions contributed to the crash. Burrell denied the plaintiff's assertion that he wasn't paying attention and didn't do enough to avoid a collision. He said Cadigan crossed into his lane quickly, before he could react.
The jury was asked to decide whether Burrell was negligent, and whether his negligence was a legal cause and substantial factor in the collision.
In closing arguments, Dilworth laid out why his client's injuries and losses were worth more than $2.7 million in damages, including $480,000 in medical costs, his inability to work, loss of enjoyment of life and the pain and suffering he has endured and will endure, based on his life expectancy.
Dilworth said $2.7 million was a fair figure to pay Church. Anything less, he said, “Then the defendant walks away without meeting his responsibility.”
Dilworth argued that Burrell was negligent in not upholding his responsibility to pay attention and avoid collisions, and that awarding damages was the only way to make negligent drivers compensate for their actions.
Attorney Martica Douglas, representing Burrell, said there was no disputing that Church had been the victim of a terrible accident. On Tuesday, she declined to cross-examine him after his testimony. Still, she said, the blame for the crash belongs to Cadigan alone. She said Burrell, who along with his wife, Dana, sustained minor injuries in the collision, was not to blame.
“How Mr. Dilworth makes this my client's fault, I don't know,” Douglas told jurors. She urged the jury to trust the analysis of Hanson, who is nationally certified to analyze accidents.
Dilworth said Hanson had used the wrong methodology for the crash.
Jurors deliberated more than two hours before reaching their verdict.