Attorney says client losses exceed $1.2 million

Jury to decide whether lumber yard driveway was 'accident waiting to happen'

By Stephen Betts | Sep 07, 2017
Photo by: Stephen Betts A Luce Transportation bus is parked outside the Knox County Courthouse before driving jurors to Lincolnville to view the scene of a July 2008 crash.

Lincolnville — A Knox County jury will decide how and why a 2008 accident occurred between a pickup truck and a motorcycle in front of Viking Lumber's Lincolnville site.

The attorney for the motorcyclist injured in the crash claimed that the company is at fault for having a driveway design that was an "accident waiting to happen."

The attorney for Viking Lumber said, however, that the driveway had been used for a lumber yard since the 1950s without a problem and that the fault lay with the driver of the pickup truck who pulled out in front of the motorcyclist.

The jury trial in the civil lawsuit filed by Seth Howard of Morrill against Viking Inc. began Thursday, Sept. 7, in Knox County Superior Court. The trial is expected to last through the end of next week.

Howard's attorney, James O'Connell III, told jurors that his client incurred medical bills of $237,000, and he has been unable to work during the past nine years. The attorney said the projected loss of lifetime work income is $1.2 million. He said Howard suffered serious physical and emotional injuries because of the crash.

O'Connell said retail businesses have an obligation to follow basic safety rules to protect customers and the public from harm. He said the company knew that the southern driveway on the property was a safety hazard because of a stone wall that reduces the view of traffic coming from the north.

The crash occurred shortly before 8 a.m. July 3, 2008, as Howard was heading from his home in Morrill to his job in Rockland.

A pickup truck driven by Andy O'Brien of Lincolnville pulled out of the driveway attempting to make a left turn. O'Brien had purchased some supplies at Viking and then was trying to make it to the ferry terminal in Lincolnville. O'Connell said the driver of the pickup truck had looked both ways before pulling out, but the sightline to the north was so limited that he could not stop in time to avoid the crash.

Howard was taken to Pen Bay Medical Center and then flown by LifeFlight helicopter to Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor.

The attorney said company owners did not even use that southern driveway because of the limited visibility.

Viking's attorney, Thomas Marjerison, disagreed, saying that the driveway had not been a problem. He said Viking purchased the lumber yard in 1994 and it had been a similar business since the 1950s.

Marjerison also said the stone wall is owned by the state and is not the responsibility of the company.

Responsibility for the crash belonged to O'Brien, who pulled out without making sure no other vehicle was approaching, Marjerison said.

Jurors were driven up to the crash site aboard a bus Thursday morning to view the location.

Justice Joyce Wheeler is presiding over the trial. An 11-member jury was selected earlier this week.

The lawsuit was filed in 2014.

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