Father of tractor victim injured at 2018 Bridgewater fair sues volunteer fire department
BRIDGEWATER — The father of the man run over by a farm tractor during last year’s Bridgewater Country Fair has sued the volunteer fire department that organizes the event.
The lawsuit claims Timothy Meeker Jr., suffered traumatic brain injury and other injuries due to the negligence of the fire department and its workers.
The father, who is Meeker’s conservator, is seeking at least $15,000 in damages, according to the filing.
The fire department, which runs the popular fair scheduled for this weekend, says the accident happened off the fairgrounds.
“This unfortunate event did not occur on fair property or under the supervision of any fair volunteer,” said D. Randall DiBella, attorney for the fire department.
Meeker, then 23, fell from an antique tractor used to tow cars out of the muddy parking lot and was run over by the vehicle’s left tire, according to the lawsuit.
The town and various leaders of the fair and fire department are named in the suit, which claims a fair volunteer asked the tractor driver to help pull cars out of the lot “when they knew or should have known that it was unsafe to do so.”
Fire Chief Ron Rotter said no one from the fair asked Meeker, the driver and another passenger to help with the cars. The accident happened on a public road, not on the fairgrounds, he said.
“However they were behaving on that tractor in no way reflects on the way we operate at the Bridgewater fair,” Rotter said. “The lawsuit is being defended vigorously.”
He added the Bridgewater Fire Department and ambulance treated and stabilized Meeker after the accident and brought him to the hospital.
“That’s our culpability in this,” Rotter said. “That’s what we did.”
Meeker fell off the tractor during a “short trip” from the parking area to the back entrance gate, states the lawsuit, filed Aug. 2.
The accident occurred on Hut Hill Road, which connects to Main Street South, where the fair is based, through Sarah Sanford Road.
Meeker was standing on a steel plate attached to the back of the tractor that was meant to pull objects, not carry passengers, State Police said at the time. The lawsuit says Meeker and another passenger were on a metal frame next to the driver’s seat.
First Selectman Curtis Read called the accident “unfortunate,” also saying those on the tractor were on a back road and not connected to the fair.
“It really appears to be an accident,” he said. “They weren’t apparently doing anything for the fair. They were just driving along a back road.”
Timothy Meeker Sr., the father, said last year his son would have wanted to help pull the cars out of the mud in which they were stuck because of heavy rain the week before the fair.
“He is truly the kind of kid who would give you the shirt off his back,” the father said last August when his son was still in the hospital. “He’s like Christopher Robin, always helping people. He’s the nicest guy you’ll ever meet.”
The suit blames fair and fire department leaders for failing to train personnel in the parking area, neglecting to supervise the towing of cars, and failing to tell Meeker Jr. and another passenger to get off the tractor.
“The people that we have conducting parking and vehicle recovery are fully trained,” Rotter said.
But the lawsuit contends, the fair did not follow its safety policies for the use of antique tractors, nor did officials develop procedures for how to manage traffic and parking issues during poor weather conditions.
The annual tractor pull competition had been canceled that day because of the muddy conditions.
Read said the town assigns local police officers to assist state police, who are in charge of safety and traffic during the festivities.
“We have always stressed safety at the fair,” he said.
The lawsuit lists 17 injuries, including liver laceration and skull and bone fractures, that Meeker suffered, adding some or all of the injuries may be permanent.
Timothy Meeker Sr. has had to spend “large sums of money” for medical care, medicine, diagnostic tests and therapy related to his son’s recovery, the suit claims.
The father, Meeker’s lawyer, the tractor driver and the other passenger on the tractor could not be reached Wednesday for comment. The driver and passenger are mentioned in the lawsuit, but are not listed as defendants.
Linda Williams, the pastor at Salem Covenant Church where Meeker attends, said the man’s condition has gotten better since last year, when the church held a vigil to pray for his recovery.
“He’s made notable improvements,” she said. “We are grateful to see him continuing on his pathway of healing.”