The widow of a Taneytown man who died March 31 when his van plunged into a two-story sinkhole on Route 31 is planning to sue the state and county.
As required under federal law, James M. Gabler, a Baltimore lawyer representing widow Nancy L. Knight, has notified Carroll County and the state of Maryland that his client intends to file suit against them for "substantial damages," the lawyer said last week.
"A family is left without a husband and father," he said.
Robert Wayne Knight, 25, died after he drove his van into a gaping hole on Route 31. A section of the highway had collapsed near Medford Road between Westminster and New Windsor because the ground under it had washed away over a long period of time.
Mr. Knight's van was heading west when it suddenly dropped into the 18-foot-deep sinkhole at 2:30 a.m. and landed upside-down.
Mr. Gabler said yesterday that discussion of specifics of a lawsuit would be "premature," but he said the case is not affected by Maryland's $350,000 ceiling in wrongful-death actions. "There is no limit on what a jury can award my client," the lawyer said.
County Attorney Charles W. Thompson Jr. said he is sympathetic to Mrs. Knight and her children but that "we don't believe we're liable for anything on that road. There is nothing that the county has any authority over on a state road."
Liz Kalinowski, a spokeswoman for the State Highway Administration, said yesterday that the sinkhole was a "natural, unpredictable" occurrence.