CAPE ELIZABETH — A lawsuit has been filed against the town for the November 2014 death of Herbert Dennison.
Katherine Dennison, widow of the former public works director, is suing the town and residents Christine Sharp-Lopez and Bernard Lopez.
Dennison is seeking an unspecified amount from the town and at least $500,000, plus interest and costs, from Sharp-Lopez and her husband.
Herbert Dennison, 79, died Nov. 24, 2014 when he was hit by a car driven by Sharp-Lopez and knocked into the two-story trash hopper at the town’s Recycling Center. Sharp-Lopez, 73, was backing into the hopper area when she struck him.
Katherine Dennison’s lawsuit, filed Tuesday, March 15, in Superior Court in Portland, lists five counts against the town and Sharp-Lopez, including wrongful death, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and negligence.
The suit claims “the Estate of Herbert Dennison incurred significant costs relative to (his) personal injury, ensuing death, and funeral costs,” and that Katherine Dennison “suffered extensively as a result of her husband’s death.”
Dennison is asking the court for a pre-judgement attachment against Sharp-Lopez of $500,000 on grounds it is likely Dennison will be awarded at least that much, and because Sharp-Lopez and Lopez only have $100,000 of liability insurance.
The suit claims Sharp-Lopez failed to “properly and carefully” operate her vehicle and that she was driving at “an imprudent speed and failed to brake.”
The Cumberland County district attorney’s office in January 2015 said it would not seek criminal charges against Sharp-Lopez. Tests determined there was no vehicle malfunction and blood tests showed Sharp-Lopez was not impaired at the time of the accident.
The lawsuit claims the town created a dangerous situation by requiring drivers to back into the trash compactor building, where people were also allowed to walk in to dispose trash. The claim says “Cape Elizabeth’s failure to correct or to mitigate said dangerous conditions caused (Herbert Dennison’s) death.”
The town has since begun a $1.4 million redesign of the Recycling Center, which still needs to be approved by voters in June. The new design would prohibit vehicles from backing up, a rule that has been in place since Dennison’s death.
Town Manager Mike McGovern said the complaint has been forwarded to the town’s insurance carrier, which will hire an attorney for the town. The town has 20 days to respond.
McGovern said he would not discuss the lawsuit.
“We continued to be saddened by the loss of Mr. Dennison, and as there is now pending litigation, I will not have further comment,” he said.
Neither Robert M. Raftice Jr., who is Katherine Dennison’s attorney, nor Sharp-Lopez could be reached Wednesday for comment.
Cape Elizabeth Recycling Center