On behalf of her late husband, Reisa Clardy recently filed suit in Middlesex Superior Court for wrongful death against the man accused of killing Massachusetts State Trooper Thomas Clardy in a fatal car crash. The lawsuit, which seeks $20 million in damages, alleges that Mr. Clardy died “as a result of the grossly negligence or malicious, willful, wanton or reckless conduct of the defendant.”
The defendant, 30-year-old Webster resident David Njuguna, collided with Clardy’s cruiser in March 2016. Trooper Clardy was stopped on the Massachusetts Turnpike, filling out a citation during a vehicle stop, when Mr. Njuguna’s sedan crashed into the rear of the cruiser without braking. Mr. Njuguna was allegedly traveling over 80 mph and was later found to have marijuana in his system. Following the crash, Trooper Clardy was taken to the hospital and shortly thereafter pronounced dead.
As a direct and proximate result of Mr. Njuguna’s negligence, the lawsuit alleges, Trooper Clardy was greatly injured, suffered conscious pain and suffering, and died as a result of the injuries. The four-page complaint alleges negligence, two counts of wrongful death, and conscious pain and suffering.
The prosecutor told the court that Mr. Njuguna had purchased medical marijuana from a dispensary about an hour before the crash. He bought four marijuana cigarettes that day, and three were found in his car, along with a partially smoked fourth one.
Mr. Njuguna, who resides in the United States legally but has not established citizenship, was treated at the University Campus of UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester, where he was transported via helicopter after the crash. Prosecutors said blood specimens seized by state police demonstrated that Mr. Njuguna had “an active THC level” at the time of the crash.
Mr Njuguna holds a medical marijuana license, and Ms. Clardy’s attorney intends to investigate how Njuguna obtained the license. Specifically, the attorney seeks to learn how much marijuana the doctor issued on the day Njuguna obtained the license and the criteria the doctor used to prescribe the marijuana.
After alcohol, marijuana is the drug most often found in the blood of drivers involved in crashes. Research shows that marijuana can have negative effects on drivers, including increased lane weaving, poor reaction time, and diminished attention to the road. But the role that marijuana plays in causing collisions is often uncertain.
Several studies have shown that drivers with THC in their blood were roughly twice as likely to be responsible for a deadly crash or be killed than drivers who hadn’t used drugs or alcohol. However, a study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) study found no significant increased crash risk traceable to marijuana after controlling other factors.
Complicating matters, THC can be detected in the body for weeks after its use, and it is often combined with alcohol or other drugs. The risk associated with marijuana in combination with alcohol, cocaine, or benzodiazepines appears to be greater than that for either drug by itself. Experts agree that more research is needed to determine the precise dangers of driving on marijuana, particularly as marijuana becomes legal in many states across the country for medical and recreational use.
In addition to the civil lawsuit, Mr. Njuguna is facing charges of manslaughter, operating to endanger, motor vehicle homicide, operating under the influence of marijuana, and other related charges in Worcester Superior Court. A judge last week denied a motion to dismiss the pending charges against Mr. Njuguna, who was ordered held on $500,000 bail at his arraignment in May.
Trooper Clardy, who was 44 at the time of the crash and worked out of the Charlton State Police Barracks, is survived by his wife and seven children.
If you have lost a loved one because of someone else’s negligence, you may need the assistance of a wrongful death lawyer to seek compensation. At the Neumann Law Group, our Massachusetts attorneys provide trustworthy legal representation to victims all over the state. Contact us toll-free at 800-525-NEUMANN or use our online form to set up a free consultation.
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Massachusetts Hospitals Faulted for Failing to Report Deaths, Neumann Law Group, December 8, 2016.