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.
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.