Lawsuit alleges negligence in doctor's death

June 19, 1997


Staff Writer

The family of a Hagerstown doctor who died in a car accident on Christmas Day filed a $6 million lawsuit Wednesday against the driver of a car, a truck driver and a trucking company.

Dr. Lynn Marie Freeze, 33, of 19308B Smallwood Terrace, died on the night of Dec. 25, 1996, after the afternoon accident on Interstate 70.

The suit, filed in Washington County Circuit Court, seeks $2 million each against Kimberly Ann Lancaster, of 105 Edgewood Drive in Hagerstown, Harvey L. Bates, of Hampton, Va., and Celadon Trucking Services Inc., of Indianapolis.


Gilbert H. Robinette, an attorney representing Bernard J. Freeze on behalf of his daughter's estate, said the $6 million figure is misleading.

In state court, plaintiffs must list an amount, and Robinette said attorneys list high figures since judges reduce jury awards if they exceed the requests.

He said a 1994 Maryland law caps the non-monetary damage in this case at $530,000. He also said the money sought can be adjusted after depositions are taken.

Robinette said if the jury were to grant an award that was higher than the cap, he would appeal on the basis that the law setting the cap deprives his client of the right to adequate compensation.

"Unfortunately, my client is dead," he said. "All I have is the police report and some witness statements that were in the police report."

Lancaster and Bates were unavailable for comment on Wednesday. Carl Hadley, Celadon's vice president of support services, said the case has been referred to a third-party insurance adjustor.

"Any time we have a major accident, it's referred to Hertz Claims Management in Chicago," he said.

The suit accuses Lancaster of changing lanes without warning, forcing Freeze's car into a tractor-trailer that was on the right shoulder of I-70. The suit alleges that Lancaster acted negligently and did not exercise caution.

The suit also accuses Bates of improperly operating his tractor-trailer along the right shoulder of the road in a nonemergency situation.

Robinette said Bates had pulled over to read a map.

The suit also claims that Celadon should be held accountable because Bates was acting as an employee of the company during the accident.

Freeze was a primary care physician at Robinwood Family Practice.

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