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Lawsuits filed in fatal 2008 crash

March 08, 2009|By ERIN JULIUS

HAGERSTOWN -- Three lawsuits have been filed against the driver of a van that was involved in fatal crash as it was taking a group of men to a seniors softball tournament.

One of the suits was filed by the widow of Clifford J. Rice, 72, who died in the May 21, 2008, crash at the intersection of Md. 66 and Interstate 70.

Rice was killed when the 2003 Chevrolet Custom van driven by Robin Poffenberger drove into the path of a tractor-trailer, Maryland State Police said at the time of the accident. Six other men were taken to area hospitals.

The men were members of the Road Runners, a senior league softball team. They were on their way to Olney, Md., for a softball tournament.

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Poffenberger attempted a make a left turn onto eastbound Interstate 70 and drove into the path of the tractor-trailer, a trooper said at the time. After the crash, the front of the tractor-trailer's cab was partially embedded in the side of the passenger van, according to published reports.

Rice's widow, Ruth Rice, filed a suit in Washington County Circuit Court in October 2008. She asked for $2 million from Poffenberger for medical expenses, loss of her husband's income, his conscious pain and suffering, and funeral expenses.

She asked for an additional $2 million as part of a wrongful death action, citing mental anguish, emotional pain and suffering, loss of society, companionship, comfort, protection, care, attention, advice, counsel and love.

Poffenberger's attorneys, in an answer filed in November 2008, denied that he was liable, and asked that Rice's complaint be dismissed.

Poffenberger has requested a jury trial.

Another man injured in the accident, Jack Finniff, and his wife filed a lawsuit in January. Finniff, of Hagerstown, was flown by helicopter to the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore following the accident, reports say.

Jack Finniff asked for $2 million, alleging in court documents that Poffenberger's negligence while driving caused Finniff "to suffer his severe injuries."

Finniff and his wife, Joyce Finniff, asked for $150,000, alleging Poffenberger's negligent conduct "caused injury to their marital relationship of the plaintiffs, including a loss of society, affection, assistance, companionship and physical relations," according to court documents.

Gardner L. Stewart, who also was flown to the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center following the accident, filed suit Feb. 24 seeking $3 million from Poffenberger.

In the suit, Stewart alleges he suffered serious and permanent injuries, severe mental and emotional anguish, and continuing and debilitating pain and suffering because of the carelessness and negligence of the defendant.

Stewart has had hospital, medical and rehabilitation care, the suit shows.

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