AUGUSTA — A Pittston widower is suing a contractor, the city and the state, saying they failed to inspect and repair a dangerous pothole on Western Avenue that caused his wife’s motorcycle to crash and left her with fatal injuries.

Jared Nightingale, who was riding a separate motorcycle and saw his wife’s motorcycle go down on July 6, 2014, is suing R.J. Grondin & Sons, the state, the state Department of Transportation and the city of Augusta.

Karen Nightingale was 53 when she died July 15, 2014, in Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston, nine days after she was hospitalized because of the accident.

Jared Nightingale, through attorney Mark E. Dunlap, is suing on his own behalf as well as the personal representative of his wife’s estate. He is seeking an unspecified amount of damages under the state’s wrongful-death statute and under Maine’s pothole law, which allows a municipality to be sued under certain circumstances for failing to repair road defects.

The couple had married about six weeks before the crash and were traveling with another couple to see the Manchester home the Nightingales were about to buy.

The accident occurred about 4:30 p.m. on Western Avenue near Woodside Road, where there was ongoing road construction. Karen Nightingale was wearing a helmet when her Harley-Davidson motorcycle hit the pothole in the travel lane and she was thrown from the motorcycle.


Nightingale was a former police officer in Waterville and Fairfield and most recently had been working as an investigator for the state Department of Health and Human Services.

The lawsuit was filed in Kennebec County Superior Court at the Capital Judicial Center, and all the defendants received notice of it, although none had filed answers with the court as of Monday.

According to the civil complaint, Karen Nightingale hit a pothole measured at “28 inches long, 16 inches wide, and 5-8 inches deep.”

Grondin had been working in the area through July 2, 2014, on a repaving project, and the roadway was subjected to heavy rain over the next two days. The complaint says rain can enlarge potholes.

The lawsuit says liability for inspection and safety in the area is held by the city, the state, the Department of Transportation and Grondin, and that the city was notified about the pothole more than 24 hours before the crash and didn’t repair it.

It also says the defendants breached their duties by failing to inspect and patch the pothole before leaving work for the holiday weekend and failing to inspect the project area over the four-day weekend.


Dunlap said Monday that all the defendants named previously had received notices of claim regarding it.

“This lawsuit was not a surprise to any of the defendants,” he said.

Ted Talbot, spokesman for the Maine Department of Transportation, said the complaint would be dealt with through the legal department, where Toni Kemmerle is chief counsel.

Augusta City Manager William Bridgeo said he forwarded the complaint to Maine Municipal Association, the city’s insurer.

Phil Grondin, of R.J. Grondin & Sons, which is headquartered in Gorham, said, “We have referred it to our insurance company” and added that he could not make further comment on an active lawsuit.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

Twitter: @betadams

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