Jodi Nofsinger, Berman & Simmons Criminal trials in Maine hayride tragedy have ‘no bearing’ on civil suit

The first of three criminal trials stemming from the death of a teenager from Oakland, Maine, during a haunted hayride in 2014 concluded this week.

David Brown, the driver of the Jeep that went out of control, toppling the hayride and killing 17-year-old Cassidy Charette, was found not guilty of reckless conduct.

The verdict concludes the criminal prosecution of Brown, but has “absolutely no bearing” on the civil lawsuit filed by the Charette family against Brown, mechanic Philip Theberge, Harvest Hill Farm, and farm owner Peter Bolduc. That claim is pending in Kennebec County Superior Court.

“‘Not guilty’ in a criminal case does not mean ‘not responsible’ in the civil justice system.” said attorney Jodi Nofsinger of Berman & Simmons, who represents the Charette family along with attorney Daniel Kagan.

“The proof necessary to find a person guilty of a crime is very different than to hold him responsible in a civil lawsuit for failing to follow basic safety rules. From the information we already have about the hayride tragedy, we believe our wrongful death case is strong and that all the defendants will be held accountable.”

The lawsuit against the Harvest Hill Farm defendants seeks compensation for damages including conscious pain and suffering, funeral expenses, pecuniary loss, emotional distress, loss of comfort, society and companionship. An investigation by the state Fire Marshal’s Office, parts of which were made public last year, concluded the Jeep’s brakes were not functioning properly at the time of the crash, and the vehicle was hauling more than double its intended towing capacity.

Nofsinger’s statements, explaining the difference between the criminal case and the civil justice case, were highlighted in media coverage of the verdict.

Click on the links to read the coverage.

Portland Press Herald, Kennebec Journal, Morning Sentinel

Lewiston Sun Journal

New England Cable News (NECN)

WCSH6 TV

ABC News

Washington Post

Statement from Jodi Nofsinger regarding today’s verdict in the trial of David Brown:

“We’re thankful for the hard work of District Attorney Andrew Robinson and Assistant District Attorney Jim Andrews, as well as the judge and jury that heard the case. We knew it could go either way. We’re disappointed with the outcome, but it has absolutely no bearing on the civil case.

Our focus remains on the civil lawsuit, which is separate from the criminal case. “Not guilty” in a criminal case does not mean “not responsible” in the civil justice system. The proof necessary to find a person guilty of a crime is very different than to hold him responsible in a civil lawsuit for failing to follow basic safety rules. From the information we already have about the hayride tragedy, we believe our wrongful death case is strong and that all the defendants will be held accountable.

The Charette family is focused on finding meaningful opportunities to honor Cass and supporting the many extraordinary ways that their community continues to shine Cassidy’s light. Her passion as a volunteer and advocate has inspired many people to carry forward the good work that she did in her short life.”

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Here are three upcoming events that Cassidy’s family wants to let the public know about:

October 11, 3:15pm, Messalonskee Remembers Cassidy on the Soccer Field at MHS

Messalonskee Boys and Girls soccer will honor Cassidy before the boys’ last home game on the soccer field at Messalonskee High at 3:15pm on Oct. 11, marking two years since her passing. The remembrance will be followed by “Eat Dessert First” with free ice cream (Cass’s favorite) for players and spectators, sponsored by Giffords Ice Cream.

November 25: Third Annual “Shine On For Cass” Alumni Soccer Games

Boys and Girls Soccer Alumni and current players will gather Friday, Nov. 25, 4 to 6pm, for the third annual “Shine On For Cass” soccer games at All Pro Soccer and Sports Club in Waterville. Alumni from Messalonskee High School soccer team and Central Maine United Soccer Club with play against current Messo soccer players to benefit the Cassidy Charette Memorial Scholarship at Messalonskee High School. Contact: Shawna Oliver: 877-5671

December 3, “Warming Up for Christmas”

Steve and Linda Fotter’s 15th annual holiday guitar concert “Warming Up for Christmas” will be held Saturday, Dec. 3, at Williamson Auditorium in Fairfield to benefit the ShineOnCass Foundation. FMI: Steve Fotter, 649-0722

Cassidy Jean

Cassidy Charette