Motorcyclist awarded $1.7 million in damages for 2010 crash

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.

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ERNEST LABBE's picture

This is ridiculous

This is ridiculous. How does someone out for a sunday drive that gets hit by a speeder end up in court?

Because a lawyer who is going to get one third of the award plus his expenses sees a way to make some quick money.

Why is the lawyer happy with the settlement? One third of 1.7 million plus expenses is a good days pay, thats why.

If I were the Burrells I would sue the plantiffs lawyer for all the grief and worry about going to court for this sort of injustice.

Thomas Hamilton's picture


There must be more to this than has been reported. Was the plaintive riding over the speed limit? Was he following too close? Was he wearing a helmet. Was he distracted?

How could he possibly blame the folks in the Honda? Seems to me that they could have a complaint.

Is he not at least partially responsible for his injury?

Noel Foss's picture


I hate lawsuits like this. While I agree that Cadigan was primarily at fault, Church wasn't being forced to speed and ride recklessly. He made that decision all on his own. And suing the guy that happened to be driving the car that both motorcyclists crashed into? Lunacy. If they'd struck a utility pole instead, would they have sued CMP for not anticipating that they'd both be driving dangerously?
The Burrells have more justification for a lawsuit than Church did; they were driving within the speed limit and within their own lane when two reckless motorcyclists blew around a corner and crashed into them.

Bob Berry's picture


I'm confused. The motorcyclist was awarded damages, but the jury found the car driver not responsible? The jury agreed with the car driver's attorney, but the motorcyclist attorney was happy? Maybe I'm just overtired.

RONALD RIML's picture

Two motorcyclists......

One motorcyclist essentially caused the accident, but was killed. His 'estate' found liable for damages to other motorcyclist. Injured motorcyclist alleged car on the road also liable for the accident, jury disagreed with his assertion.

There's other articles on this collision which provide more information.

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Hard to see how the driver of

Hard to see how the driver of the car could be held responsible for any portion of the accident. Someone's in your lane headed towards you head on leaves you with a very narrow window of opportunity for avoidance, wouldn't you say?

RONALD RIML's picture

I certainly agree....

Though lawyers know - you can't catch fish ($$$$) unless you cast your net far and wide...... "Hope springs eternal."

PAUL ST JEAN's picture

Ahh yes, the barristers must

Ahh yes, the barristers must get their share of the cadavers.


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