Maine Court Rules State Not to Blame for Crash on Road without Stripes

May 15, 2008

The state supreme court has set aside a jury’s verdict that the Maine Department of Transportation was partly to blame in a hit-and-run crash because it took too long to paint stripes on Route 302.

A jury awarded $2.9 million to the family of Lucas Tolliver, who was critically injured when he was struck early on June 20, 2004. The MDOT’s share was later reduced to $400,000.

This week, the supreme court threw out the verdict altogether, ruling that the testimony didn’t support a finding that the MDOT was to blame for the crash.

“We conclude that any inference that the lack of an edge line was an actual cause of the accident would amount to nothing more than speculation on the part of the jury,” Justice Jon Levy wrote for the majority. Three other justices concurred. Justice Warren Silver dissented.

Tolliver was struck at 2 a.m. on June 20, 2004, while walking on what would have been the breakdown lane on Route 302 in Casco if there’d been stripes. He suffered a head injury as well as broken ribs, a broken hip and a lacerated liver.

Route 302 was surfaced on May 17, 2004, and temporary reflectors were put in place. But permanent stripes had not been painted by the time of the incident.

Lacking stripes, motorists were apparently confused over whether there were two lanes, or one lane and a breakdown lane, according to testimony.

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