Lawsuit filed against Lobster Festival

Farmingdale woman suing for alleged assault by volunteer
By Stephanie Grinnell | Jul 13, 2011

Augusta — A Farmingdale woman filed a civil lawsuit July 12 against the Maine Lobster Festival organization — Rockland Festival Corporation — and a volunteer.

According to the lawsuit filed by Augusta law firm Lipman, Katz and McKee, Farmingdale resident Sarah Merrill was assaulted by volunteer Neil Wright of Saco during the 2009 Lobster Festival in Rockland. The lawsuit states Merrill was working in her parent's fudge booth during the festival when, on Aug. 2, 2009, Wright “did assault [Merrill], including, but not limited to, grabbing and squeezing the plaintiff's arm and dragging the plaintiff 70 yards.” The lawsuit states Merrill suffered “bruising, pain, humiliation, embarrassment, suffering and mental anguish,” and contended Wright's actions were “intentional, malicious and outrageous.”

The lawsuit demands compensable and punitive damages from Wright for the previously outlined charges as well as compensable and punitive damages from the festival for then-president of the festival Tammy Kolmosky delegating “authority to physically remove people from the festival” to volunteers such as Wright.

The lawsuit was filed in Kennebec County.

According to a VillageSoup story in February, the district attorney's office dropped an assault charge against Wright, 52. Assistant District Attorney Lindsay Jones stated in court papers filed in Knox County Superior Court the misdemeanor assault count was dismissed because a trial in December resulted in a deadlocked jury.

The prosecution considered whether to retry the case since the hung jury occurred, according to the previous report.

The district attorney's office argued at the trial that Merrill went on and off the grounds several times that day and did not have a problem due to the lack of a bracelet until she ran into Wright. She was not trespassing and had the right to be on the grounds, Jones told the jury during the December trial.

Wright wrote the rules for festival volunteers, Jones noted, and should have known grabbing the woman by the arm was wrong.

The jury deliberated for about five hours before announcing it had deadlocked on the case.

The defense argued that the woman completely disregarded Wright's instructions and resisted being led to the gate.

Defense attorney Gary Prolman of Portland told the jury in December one of Merrill's first actions that week was to contact a lawyer about suing in an attempt to get money.

Jones noted the woman was allowed back on the grounds later that day and she received an apology from the festival president for Wright's action. Jones noted the rules Wright had helped write stated he should have identified the woman and notified law enforcement if he wanted her removed.

Wright had been a festival director as late as 2008 but then stepped down and served in 2009 as a volunteer.

Herald Gazette reporter Steve Betts contributed to this report.

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