AUGUSTA — Susan Cloutier isn’t looking for sympathy or pity, but she does want to be fairly compensated for the death of her husband and son.

Cloutier, of Winthrop, who lost her husband, Ghislain “Gus” Cloutier, and her older son, Casey, in a Route 202 car crash in December 2014, stood before the Legislature’s Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee on Monday and asked the lawmakers to approve legislation that would allow the state to compensate her $400,000 for the crash.

Ralph Ryder Jr., the driver of the other vehicle, survived the crash. He was an on-the-clock state employee who was driving his own vehicle when it crossed the centerline in Leeds and collided with the car Gus and Casey were riding in, according to Rep. Craig Hickman, D-Winthrop.

The father and son were on their way to catch a bus for a hockey game Casey was scheduled to play in later that day.

Hickman, who is sponsoring the bill, which was offered by Republican Gov. Paul LePage, said state law limits the state’s liability to $400,000 per incident but because Susan Cloutier, who is also a state employee, lost her husband and son as a result of a state employee’s negligence, she should be entitled to twice that amount.

“Her family was cleaved in half by another state employee on state time,” Hickman said. He said he has worked as a human resources manager for private companies in the past and that it is often said the state should be run more like a business.


“I can tell you that if one of my employees on company time was responsible for the death of two family members of another employee I would ensure that the company could do everything it could, within reason, to provide relief for the employee who lost her family,” Hickman said. He said LePage’s legislation encourages the state to provide reasonable relief to Susan Cloutier and her younger son, Chase.

“This is our responsibility as a state,” Hickman said. “In essence, we would be compensating the family with $400,000 for the loss of her husband and $400,000 for the loss of her son. Providing equitable relief for Susan and her son.”

As her voice wavered, Susan Cloutier told the committee the loss of her husband and his income from his job at the NewPage paper mill in Rumford had created extraordinary financial strain and anxiety for her and Chase.

“I’m not here asking for pity or sympathy,” she said. “I’m asking for the financial support needed to raise Chase, maintain our lives, our home and our future that was abruptly and negatively stolen from us.”

She said when Casey decided to go to St. Dom’s, he applied for financial aid from the school and on that application he wrote about his family’s willingness to support his desire to attend a private school.

“He wrote, ‘My parents try not to discuss about money in front of my brother and me but when I mention the cost of attending a private school they keep saying, ‘Don’t worry we will do what we can to make it work.’ But I know every little bit helps and that is why my mom handed me the application.'”


Susan Cloutier said it was true she and Gus did everything they could to provide Casey “the opportunity to have the best possible education we could afford and send him to a school that we knew had a wonderful reputation.”

She said to do that, the family cashed in a life insurance policy and there was little chance that she alone would have the financial means to provide her younger son with that same opportunity now.

The legislation, as proposed, would also see Susan Cloutier agree to settle her lawsuit against the state and forgo what could be a costly legal case for the state.

On Wednesday, Androscoggin County District Attorney Andrew Robinson said his office determined there was no criminal wrongdoing on the part of Ryder and he was not charged with any crime in the accident. But Robinson also confirmed that a civil case against the state would not be held to the same standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt” that is the standard for a criminal conviction.

He said the law limits the state’s liability to $400,000 per incident and that law did not consider how many lives were lost as a result of an incident.

Avery Day, an attorney and LePage’s chief legal counsel, encouraged the committee to approve the legislation.


“This bill would provide an additional $400,000 to the Cloutier family by providing an appropriation as opposed to going through the time and expense of litigating damages,” Day said. He said the Legislature, in the past, has waived the state’s so-called “sovereign immunity,” allowing damages to be litigated.

“This is sort of the reverse of that,” Day said. “There’s an agreement up front to the size of the damages and we don’t have to litigate it to determine that.”

The committee will meet again next week to vote on the proposal before it is sent to the full House of Representatives for consideration.

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