The parents of Cassidy Charette, who died during a haunted hayride crash nearly three years ago, have settled the wrongful death lawsuit against the farm owner who operated the attraction for an undisclosed amount, the family’s attorney said Wednesday.
The money will go to support the ShineOnCass Foundation, a charity founded in Cassidy Charette’s name, according to Jodi Nofsinger, the family’s Lewiston attorney.
The foundation was established two years ago to honor Charette, who was a 17-year-old honor student, active community volunteer and standout athlete at Messalonskee High School in Oakland, Maine.
The family has focused on the foundation, not the lawsuit, Cassidy’s younger brother, Colby Charette, 17, said Wednesday in a telephone interview.
“Obviously it’s nice to have this legal aspect over,” he said. “People expect that it’s a big door closing for us, but the legal process has not really been at the forefront of our minds. We are trying to shine Cassidy’s light and honor her legacy by continuing her community service.”
The foundation’s mission is to “to educate, inspire and empower youth to make their world a better place through volunteer charitable activities.” It has contributed to local charities and awards a $3,000 scholarship each year to a graduating senior from Messalonskee High School in Oakland.
Cassidy and Colby were best friends, according to the girl’s obituary.
“I miss her presence and her ability to brighten somebody’s day just with her smile,” he said.
Cassidy Charette died after a trailer she was riding on overturned Oct. 11, 2014, at Harvest Hill Farm, the Mechanic Falls property then owned by Peter Bolduc Jr.
“The great tragedy is that if some basic, common sense safety precautions had been taken, Cassidy would still be here,” Nofsinger said in the Wednesday morning news release. “The Jeep was in deplorable condition. This wasn’t a simple accident, as some have suggested. It was a disaster waiting to happen. Now Cassidy and her family are paying the price.”
Cassidy’s parent, Randy and Monica Charette, filed the wrongful death lawsuit in July 2016 in Kennebec County Superior Court against Bolduc; the farm; mechanic Philip Theberge, 40, of Norway; and driver David Brown, 57, of South Paris.
In November, Bolduc admitted criminal negligence when he pleaded guilty on behalf of the farm to a felony charge of driving to endanger, the release said. In exchange for the guilty plea, the Androscoggin County district attorney’s office dropped a Class A manslaughter charge against the company.
Bolduc was not personally charged in the criminal case. The business also was ordered to pay a $7,500 fine, Michael Whipple of Portland, Bolduc’s criminal defense attorney, said last year. All but $575 of the fine was suspended under the condition that the farm donate the remaining $6,925 to charity. A hearing to determine the amount of restitution to be paid is scheduled to be held later this month.
“This case has always been about accountability, and I’m pleased the defendants have been held accountable, first in the criminal court and now with the resolution of the civil case,” Nofsinger said Wednesday.
Portland attorney Jonathan Brogan, who represented Bolduc, Theberge and Brown, said Wednesday that his clients continue to grieve Cassidy’s death and the other riders hurt in the crash.
“They continue to grieve about this tragic accident and the loss of Cassidy and the injuries to others on the hayride,” Brogan said in an email. “They all hope that resolution of this matter helps, in some small way, to continue the healing for everyone.”
The Charette family plans to work with legislators to revisit “Cassidy’s Law” in hopes it might prevent this tragedy from happening to another family in Maine. The family tried unsuccessfully last year to require that farm equipment be inspected.
“The absence of Cassidy in our lives will never heal with time or accountability,” Monica Charette said in a written statement issued Wednesday. “Nothing can bring her back. This has changed the way we all view our existence, the time we have here, and how we spend it,”