PARIS, Maine — A Harrison motorcyclist who was badly injured in a 2010 accident is seeking more than $2.7 million in damages in a civil case being heard in Oxford County Superior Court this week.
Benjamin Church, who is in his early 50s, filed suit against the estate Patrick J. Cadigan of Lovell, who was killed in the crash, and Douglas Burrell of Lebanon, N.H., another driver involved in the crash on Route 160 in Porter.
Church was in a coma for 33 days after the Aug. 29, 2010, crash in which fellow biker Cadigan was killed, his attorney, Edward Dilworth, said in court Monday.
Church and Cadigan were returning from a Wounded Warrior Soldier Ride and were northbound on Route 160. Burrell was driving south with his wife, Dana, after spending the day in Maine for her birthday.
Cadigan took a corner quickly, crossed the centerline and slid on his Harley-Davidson in front of Burrell’s Honda CR-V, according to Dilworth.
The collision between the bike and SUV killed Cadigan. Church, who was riding behind Cadigan and to his right, was thrown from his motorcycle and landed in a ditch. He was flown to Maine Medical Center in Portland. The Burrells suffered minor injuries.
According to Dilworth, Church’s medical bills from his two-month hospitalization cost almost $500,000, and the permanent damage to his body has left him unable to work in his trade as a carpenter. Dilworth said Church has several pins in his leg, connected by a “chain-like device,” and sitting or standing for a long time is painful for him.
In his opening remarks to the jury Monday, Dilworth faulted Burrell for not swerving or braking to avoid Cadigan.
“A driver has to look and pay attention to what he’s doing,” Dilworth said. He accused Burrell of looking down at a map just before the accident, which Burrell denied.
Attorney Martica Douglas, representing Burrell, said the two motorcyclists were driving more than 60 mph to catch up with a group of bikers. She said the blame lies solely with Cadigan.
“The height of injustice is to blame somebody for a tragedy that they did nothing to cause,” Douglas said.
Burrell testified that Cadigan was coming around a blind corner and he didn’t see Cadigan crossing into his lane until he was 20 feet away, which was too late to react. “At 20 feet, I had enough time to say, ‘This can’t be happening,’” Burrell said.
He said he was driving 40 mph, slightly under the speed limit, and that while Cadigan crossed the centerline, he remained in his lane.
Dilworth presented evidence that Burrell’s tire was touching the centerline after the crash. He said, however, it never crossed the line.
A woman driving behind Burrell at the time of the accident also testified Monday. Carole Burnell said she recalled seeing Cadigan’s foot pedal over the centerline, and Burrell was driving on the line as well, crossing it just before the crash. She said her view of the collision was blocked by Burrell’s vehicle when Cadigan slid in front of it.
The trial will continue Tuesday.