Fatal Maryland Crash Prompts $19M Lawsuit

April 27, 2009

Relatives of three men killed on the Bay Bridge in 2007 after a trailer detached from an SUV have filed a $19 million lawsuit against the SUV driver, a state agency and others.

James H. Ingle, 44, Randall R. Orff, 47, and his 19-year-old son, Jonathan R. Orff, were killed in the crash, which occurred when one of the bridge’s two spans was set up for two-way traffic, with no barrier between the eastbound and westbound lanes.

The lawsuit filed by relatives of Ingle and the Orffs claims the Maryland Transportation Authority knew it was risky to allow two-way traffic on one span because of past accidents.

The plaintiffs’ lawyer, Paul D. Bekman, said he disagrees with the transportation authority’s claim that two-way traffic did not contribute to the crash. The state should have used portable barriers between the lanes of opposing traffic, a measure employed on bridges elsewhere, Bekman said. The lack of barriers created “a dangerous and perilous condition on the Bay Bridge,” according to the complaint.

“It’s obvious that there are multiple factors that contributed to this terrible tragedy and we intend to prove that at the time of trial,” he said.

A spokeswoman for the transportation authority said the agency cannot comment on pending litigation.

The lawsuit, which was filed earlier this month in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court, also names SUV driver Stephen A. Burt; trailer owner Levon Andonian; truck driver Joshua Hargrove; Hargrove’s employer, Mobile Mini Inc.; truck driver Edwin Dixon; and Dixon’s employer, AG Trucking Inc.

Burt was westbound on the bridge on May 10, 2007, when the trailer detached from his SUV, causing a series of accidents involving seven vehicles. The complaint claims the trailer was poorly constructed and improperly secured and that the SUV was driving too fast. It also alleges negligent driving on the part of the two truck drivers.

Burt was not charged at the time of the crash because no applicable laws existed for securing the type of trailer he was towing. The accident prompted legislation the following year that placed restrictions on how such trailers are secured and established penalties for violations.

Information from: The (Baltimore) Daily Record

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