Former Harford County Council Secretary Doris M. Poulsen has filed a $2.5 million lawsuit against the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration, alleging that a visually impaired, deaf and illiterate drunken driver who rear-ended her car last year should not have been licensed to drive.
Mrs. Poulsen, a resident of Joppa, filed the civil complaint, with her husband, William, as co-plaintiff, in Harford Circuit Court Monday.
The state and five high-level state and MVA officials were named as co-defendants.
Mrs. Poulsen, who began her retirement Thursday, left her job because of injuries from the accident.
She was critically injured in the June 9, 1993, accident, in which her 1986 Cadillac was struck from behind by a 1984 Chrysler driven by Daniel Lee Jones of Rising Sun.
The impact of the crash, on Mountain Road at Cheyenne Avenue, forced her Cadillac into the northbound lane of Mountain Road, where it collided head-on with a 1992 Ford Aerostar van.
Mrs. Poulsen's lawsuit contends that Jones was drunk and speeding and that he caused the accident.
Jones pleaded guilty to driving while intoxicated in Harford District Court on Dec. 16, 1993. He was fined $500 and sentenced to one year in prison, court records show.
Jones, 39, has been deaf and legally blind in one eye since birth, the lawsuit contends, adding that he is "illiterate, unable to read lips, knows almost no sign language and can form only the most rudimentary word sounds."
The MVA knew or should have known of the man's "physical and mental limitations" when he applied for a Maryland driver's license in 1973, the lawsuit alleges.
Citing various provisions of the state's Transportation Article, the lawsuit contends that MVA officials had the authority to "refuse to issue or renew" a license for any applicant or licensed driver who was "unfit, unsafe, or habitually reckless or negligent."
Jones was convicted twice for driving under the influence of alcohol, in 1984 and 1986, the lawsuit alleges, in addition to his 1993 conviction, which was the result of the Poulsen crash.
For all of the "patent, combined physical and mental disabilities" allegedly displayed by Jones, the lawsuit contends that the MVA was negligent in allowing Jones to hold a valid driver's license and, therefore, contributed to the 1993 accident and Mrs. Poulsen's injuries.
The lawsuit asks $1.5 million in compensatory damages for Mrs. Poulsen and $1 million in compensatory damages for her and her husband's loss of marital relationship.
Because of the pending litigation, MVA officials would not discuss Jones or Mrs. Poulsen's lawsuit.
However, Jim Lang, an MVA spokesman, said a very small percentage of people who should not be licensed to drive are able to meet the minimum qualifications of state laws to retain their driving privileges.
Mr. Lang also said that audio tapes may be used to assist illiterate applicants in taking the computerized test formerly known as the "written" test.
MVA records obtained by The Sun show that Jones currently has points on his MVA computerized driving record and that his license to drive was revoked as of Feb. 25, 1994.