Jury finds Bangor track not at fault in 2008 accident that broke back of harness racer

Posted March 30, 2013, at 5:33 p.m.
Last modified March 31, 2013, at 5:45 p.m.

FARMINGTON, Maine — A Franklin County jury Friday found that conditions at Bangor Historic Track did not cause an accident in 2008 that injured a harness racer, according to attorney Walter McKee of Augusta, who represented the track.

Michael L. Cushing, 44, of Farmington sued the track, owned by Hollywood Casino and the City of Bangor, in May 2010 in Franklin County Superior Court. Bangor leases the raceway to Hollywood Casino.

Cushing claimed in the complaint that his June 18, 2008, injuries were caused by “defective and unsafe conditions at the time of the race.”

The jury was asked to decide whether the track conditions caused the accident or whether the accident was simply caused by a young horse who broke stride and fell, McKee said Saturday in an email. The 6-2 verdict was announced Friday morning. The jury began deliberating Thursday afternoon after more than three days of testimony, McKee said.

“The track was pleased with the jury’s verdict,” he said. “It was very sad that Mike Cushing was injured but unfortunately when you have 1,000-pound animals traveling at 30 mph everyone recognizes that accidents can happen.”

Cushing’s attorney, William Robitzek of Lewiston, said Sunday that his client “was clearly disappointed with the result.”

“But he loves harness racing,” the attorney said. “He has always loved harness racing, and he will continue to compete in the sport.”

Cushing broke his back and tailbone in the accident when he was catapulted from his sulky during a qualifying race, according to a Bangor Daily News article published June 21, 2008. In the lawsuit, Cushing claimed he had suffered “permanent injury” and the “impairment of earnings and future earning capacity.”

At time of the accident, Cushing had won more than 1,200 races, the BDN article said.

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