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Fourth defendant named in road roller death lawsuit

March 26, 1997

By MARLO BARNHART

Staff Writer

A fourth defendant has been added to a $4 million lawsuit filed against Washington County employees by the family of a county roads worker who was killed on the job in August 1995.

Manford Hart, an employee of the Washington County Roads Department, was added to the suit in March filings in Washington County Circuit Court.

Keith Shives, 46, was crushed to death on Aug. 21, 1995, under a road roller on U.S. 40 at the Licking Creek Bridge near Indian Springs while on his way to a job site at 7:29 a.m.

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Gerard Emig, attorney for the Shives family, said in his amended filing that Manford Hart was in a supervisory position and ordered Shives to use the machine that day.

Emig also contends Hart was on site Aug. 17 and personally saw Shives having trouble unloading the road roller when it was delivered.

Efforts to reach Hart Tuesday were unsuccessful.

Last September, Washington County Circuit Judge Daniel Moylan dropped one of the original four defendants from the suit.

Moylan found that worker's role in the incident didn't reach the level of "direct acts of negligence" in the death of Shives.

But Moylan rejected dismissal arguments by the other three defendants - Ted Wolford, superintendent of the Washington County Transportation Department, and roads department employees Richard Curry and Ronald McCarty.

All three unsuccessfully sought dismissal based on a governmental immunity argument raised by their attorneys.

The lawsuit alleges that Wolford, Curry and McCarty knew of the dangerous history of the roller.

The civil suit, filed by widow Irene Shives, son Keith Mark Shives II and daughter Megan Louise, seeks $2 million each for wrongful death and survival action.

The lawsuit, which alleges negligence, details a history of maintenance problems with the road roller Shives was using when he died. The machine had been around since the 1970s.

Although a three-year roads department veteran, Shives had only three months of experience operating equipment, the suit said.

Shives had no prior experience with lever-operated equipment, but was operating a lever-controlled tandem roller, the lawsuit said.

A 58-page report stemming from a Maryland Occupational Safety and Health investigation into the death, led to five "serious" citations, but no fines, lodged against the Washington County Commissioners in late 1995.

While no trial date has been set, a scheduling conference among attorneys is planned for early April.

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