Judge dismisses lawsuit against Androscoggin County by Old Town man who struck pregnant driver’s car in high-speed chase

By Chris Williams, Sun Journal
Posted Feb. 15, 2013, at 6:20 a.m.

AUBURN, Maine — A judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by an Old Town man who fled police in 2010 and crashed his car into a sport utility vehicle driven by a pregnant woman.

Glen Witham, 43, pleaded guilty in 2011 to three felonies stemming from the crash, including aggravated assault, eluding an officer and passing a roadblock.

He was sentenced to five years in prison with all but 29 months suspended, followed by two years of probation. He also was ordered to pay nearly $15,000 in restitution.

He was released in November after challenging his continued incarceration.

Last year, he filed a complaint in Androscoggin County Superior Court against the Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Department, later amending it to include numerous law enforcement officers. He said he planned to use any award to cover his medical bills.

Witham had been the target of an investigation by a sheriff’s deputy, who suspected him of stealing a computer. The deputy had arranged online to meet Witham in Greene in May 2010. Witham fled in his car and the deputy pursued him, according to court papers.

Witham crashed into a vehicle driven by a pregnant woman and ended up in the hospital, where he underwent surgery. He was taken to a rehab facility in June 2010.

Witham claimed that law enforcement officers altered facts in their reports of the vehicle chase and resulting accident.

The defendants had the case removed to federal court from Androscoggin County Superior Court. A federal judge issued an order in October 2012 dismissing all federal claims and transferred the remaining state claims back to Androscoggin County Superior Court.

Those claims were negligence; libel and slander; deceit and entrapment; negligent supervision; failure to supervise and covering up an investigation; fraudulent concealment; obstructing justice; and conduct unbecoming of an officer.

In November, the defendants named in the lawsuit filed a motion to dismiss the remaining state claims against them.

Witham represented himself last week in the Androscoggin County Superior Court Law Library to oppose the defendants’ motion.

Cassandra Shaffer, who represented the county, argued that Witham failed to meet the six-month deadline for giving notice for tort-based claims. According to the Maine Tort Claims Act, the plaintiff must give notice to the governmental entity involved within 180 days of the cause of the action unless he can show “good cause why notice could not have reasonably been filed” by that deadline, according to the five-page order filed Wednesday by Justice MaryGay Kennedy.

In this case, Witham served a notice of claim on the defendants on January 2012, about a year and a half after he was in rehab from the accident. Witham said he had no memory of the events of the crash immediately afterward, but he didn’t indicate exactly when he regained his memory. He said last week that he filed notice of his claim when he took possession of police videos of the chase, which was after he learned about the existence of the videos.

“There is no allegation or evidence that he lacked enough memory to file notice of claim within the 180-day period, or that any issue obtaining the police video exceeded ordinary difficulty in learning the facts underlying the claim,” Kennedy wrote in her order.

She dismissed other claims reasoning that they were not supported by relevant state law.

Witham can appeal to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court within 21 days of the judge’s order.

 

http://bangordailynews.com/2013/02/15/news/lewiston-auburn/judge-dismisses-lawsuit-against-androscoggin-county-by-old-town-man-who-struck-pregnant-drivers-car-in-high-speed-chase/ printed on October 1, 2014