Maryland Added as Defendant in Bay Bridge Accident Lawsuit

The suit was amended last week to add the state and the Maryland Transportation Authority, claiming bridge barriers could have been better-maintained to prevent the truck from going into the Bay. The suit also claims two-way traffic on the bridge at the time of the crash was inherently dangerous and has led to numerous other fatalities.

The fatal crash occurred shortly before 4 a.m. Sunday, August 10, 2008, on the east span of the Bay Bridge about a mile from the Kent Island side of the bridge. Two-way traffic was in operation on the east span at the time, while the west span was closed to traffic because of construction. Short was driving a 1999 International truck tractor pulling a trailer loaded with frozen chicken for Mountaire Farms. He was driving west on the east span. Candy Lynn Baldwin, of Millington, was driving a 1997 Camaro east on the east span. Her car crossed the center line, approaching the tractor-trailer head-on. Short hit the brakes and swerved the rig to avoid a head-on crash. The car hit the left side of the rig. The impact of the collision knocked the axles off the rig, which jack-knifed and crashed into and over the parapet wall on the left (south) side of the bridge and plunged into the Bay and sank. Short was trapped in the cab and drowned. His body was recovered by divers from Anne Arundel County Fire Department.

Baldwin, who was 19 at the time, and a passenger in her car, Trisha Carrigan, of Quincy, CA, who was 21 at the time, were trapped in the wrecked Camaro and freed by volunteers from the Kent Island and Grasonville volunteer fire departments. Both women were injured and flown by Maryland State Police helicopters to the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore. Two Virginia residents who were in a 2005 Toyota Prius that was involved in the accident were not injured. Seung Won Hong was the driver and Ho Yoo was a passenger in the car, traveling east on the east span.

The crash was investigated by the Maryland Transportation Authority Police. Frank Kratovil, then the Queen Anne’s County state’s attorney, said the state lacked the evidence to file criminal charges against Baldwin. Baldwin told reporters she fell asleep at the wheel. Baldwin had a blood alcohol content of .03 percent and no drugs in her system when officials tested her after the accident. A person with a blood alcohol content of .05 percent is presumed not under the influence of alcohol under Maryland law. The state charged Baldwin with three motor vehicle violations: violation of a restriction on her license for consuming alcohol, negligent driving, and failure to drive right of center. She pleaded guilty to the three charges and paid $470 in fines in January 2009.

The family of John R. Short Sr. filed a lawsuit against Baldwin in June, seeking $7-million. Keith Franz, attorney for the plaintiffs, said at the time that police waited six hours to test Baldwin’s blood alcohol content because they were pre-occupied with rerouting traffic and other details following the fatal crash. The amended lawsuit filed in Queen Anne’s County Circuit Court on December 11 adds the Maryland Transportation Authority as a defendant, and the Short family is also seeking $7-million from the MdTA and asking for a jury trial. The family is represented by the Baltimore law firm of Azrael, Gann & Franz LLP.

The suit was filed by Connie M. Short, wife of the late John L. Short Sr., and the couple’s daughter, Renee L. Short. Connie Short is acting as personal representative for the couple’s son, John R. Short Jr., and her husband’s father, Lloyd Ralph Short. John R. Short Sr. was a U.S. Navy veteran and had worked more than 30 years as a truck driver and sales representative.