KITTERY, Maine — Five notices of intent to sue have now been filed against the town following the Kittery Community Center bus crash on Interstate 95 that sent 13 people to the hospital in August, including 11 children.
The latest three filings, following an initial two in the early weeks after the crash, include monetary damages of $300,000 and $400,000 worth of medical expenses, as a result of a fractured tibia, head injuries, facial scarring and emotional trauma, the paperwork states.
A GMC Savana transport van operated by the Kittery Community Center crashed on I-95 in Greenland Aug. 10, carrying children to day trip at Candia Springs Adventure Park, as part of the KCC’s SAFE summer program. Summer camp counselor John Guy, 21, of Kittery, was identified as the driver, and soon after, his record of several driving convictions, including driving to endanger, and a minor criminal record, surfaced, raising questions as to why he was allowed to operate the town-owned vehicle carrying children.
An internal investigation conducted by the town later revealed due to a organizational discrepancy in the hiring process, driving record checks were entirely passed over for all summer camp staff this year.
New Hampshire State Police said Guy experienced a medical emergency that led to the crash, but have declined to comment further. The police investigation remains ongoing.
But during a past case in York County District Court, Guy wrote to court officials that he suffered from epilepsy and grand mal seizures, and was recently involved in Alcoholics Anonymous. It is not known what, if anything, the town of Kittery knew about Guy’s medical condition.
Four of the notices of claim are filed on behalf of children, and the fifth is a workers’ compensation notice of claim, filed by the second camp counselor aboard the bus Aug. 10.
A filing on Aug. 21 through law firm Isaacson & Raymond out of Lewiston, Maine, on behalf of a child injured in the crash, states she suffered a head injury, emotional trauma and facial scarring, with medical treatment ongoing. The notice of claim’s statement of monetary damages is $400,000.
The Portsmouth Herald has decided not to name the juveniles injured in the crash.
Another notice dated Sept. 5 by mother Bridie O’Brien on behalf of her daughter stated, “It appears that John Guy was negligently hired without a correct background check which would have disclosed a problematic driving record and medical issues. There was no apparent reason for the vehicle to leave the road and hiring John Guy was negligent without knowing his driving and medical background, particularly as he was driving a van with a number of children and a counselor.”
O’Brien’s daughter sustained a fractured tibia in her left leg, bruises to both legs, a bump on her forehead and general soreness, according to the filing. Treatment for the broken leg is ongoing and she is currently in a cast. Damages are estimated at $300,000.
The camp counselor’s notice of claim is governed by workers’ compensation law, according to attorney Edward Benjamin, who is representing the town. Identified as Elise Verdi, her filing does not state the extent of her injuries. Benjamin noted it refers to both a workers’ compensation claim as well as a personal injury claim, so it is unclear at this time how it may proceed. If a person is injured on the job, their remedy is the workers’ compensation system, not lawsuits in civil court, he said.
Benjamin said under Maine law, a party making a claim against a municipality has to provide the municipality of a notice within 180 days of the event, stating their intent to file suit. The municipality, or in this case the Maine Municipal Association Property and Casualty Pool, a self-insured municipal risk pool, then has 120 days to investigate the claim and decide whether to deny the claim or to try to resolve it. However, the bus crash scenario is different because the investigation is being conducted by New Hampshire State police, so the insurance pool awaits the conclusion.
“We’ve asked the lawyers who have filed notices of claim to date to gather their clients’ medical bills and treatment records and to forward them to me, along with a written demand,” Benjamin said. “At this point, it will give us some idea as to the demands that we are facing, what support exists for them, etc., while we await the information the accident investigation will provide. But I haven’t received any responses from any of the lawyers at this point.”
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