DOT Not Immune from Lawsuit

The Maine Supreme Court is allowing a negligence lawsuit against the State Department of Transportation to go forward.   The plaintiff, John Jorgensen, suffered serious permanent injuries after crashing his car in a work zone.  The DOT had closed one lane, but Jorgensen reentered that lane because there were no barricades indicating it was still closed, and subsequently crashed into a parked truck.

In a unanimous ruling, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court said the state can claim immunity when a complaint involves employees making policy decisions with relatively broad implications.

But in this case, the court ruled that immunity doesn’t extend to ”on-the-ground decisions” such as where to place barricades or cones or to park vehicles in repair zones, said Berney Kubetz, the Jorgensens’ attorney.

via Maine Wire – wbztv.com.

Maine is a “comparative negligence”  state, meaning that if the plaintiff is found to be more negligent than the defendant, than he or she cannot recover.  So in this case, the state will been to show that Jorgensen’s negligence in driving back into the closed lane was greater than the negligence of the DOT workers in failing to put enough cones and barriers to indicate that the lane was still closed.

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Malpractice, Celebrity Edition

Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac has filed a complaint against Portland firm Bernstein, Shur, Sawyer & Nelson. It appears the firm’s misunderstanding of British law put their client on the hook for $4.5 million in fees. Law.com:

The Fleetwood group had hired the firm, which is based in Portland, Maine, to bring suit against a division of the British Broadcasting Corp. over distribution rights to rare musical recordings worth about $100 million, according to an amended complaint in the lawsuit, which was filed on March 26 in federal court in Maine. McNulty v. McDonald, No. 2:09-cv-00111 (D. Maine).

… At that time, Fleetwood’s group allegedly asked McDonald if they could be individually liable for the BBC division’s attorney fees, to which McDonald replied there was “no chance.”

But in 2005, the BBC division sued Bee Load in England, where a London court imposed about $150,000 in costs against Fleetwood’s group. Bee Load filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2006.

Invoking a British law called the “Funders’ Rule,” the BBC division sought $4.5 million in attorney fees, the suit claims.