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Dad of 13-year-old hurt in fatal crash in Pembroke sues alleged drunk driver and driver’s company

A Pembroke father whose 13-year-old daughter was severely injured in a Dec. 29 crash that killed another 13-year-old girl has filed a lawsuit against the suspected drunk driver charged criminally in the case, as well as the driver’s bosses who hosted a company party before the deadly collision that allegedly included excessive drinking and cocaine use.

The father, Gary Zemotel, filed the civil lawsuit Monday in Plymouth Superior Court on behalf of his daughter, Kendall, who suffered a traumatic brain injury in the crash that claimed the life of 13-year-old Claire Zisserson, according to legal filings.

The suit names the alleged drunk driver, Gregory Goodsell, of Marshfield, Goodsell’s employer at the time of the crash, HiWay Safety Systems Inc., company director Kenneth Horn and Kathy Coggeshall DeLong -- the company president, treasurer, secretary and director -- as defendants.


Calls to Goodsell’s lawyer and HiWay Safety Systems weren’t immediately returned Wednesday.

According to Zemotel’s civil complaint, Goodsell and other HiWay Safety employees attended a party at the Pembroke home of Horn and DeLong on the evening of Dec. 28, and the gathering stretched into the early morning hours.

During the party, there was “excessive alcohol consumption and use of illegal narcotics” including cocaine, and the defendants allegedly supplied or permitted the use of drugs and served booze, the complaint says, and also allegedly let Horn use their vehicle with “knowledge of his intoxication.”

According to court records in the criminal case pending against Goodsell, who’s charged with several counts including manslaughter by OUI, he was driving a HiWay Safety Systems Inc. pickup truck when he allegedly drove through a red light about 7 a.m. on Dec. 29 at the intersection of Church and Oak Streets in Pembroke and slammed into a Subaru passenger car carrying Kendall, Claire and Claire’s mother, Elizabeth Zisserson.


Zisserson and Kendall survived, but Claire was later pronounced dead.

Goodsell repeatedly told Pembroke police and ambulance crews - and later gave a taped statement to police - that he was “coming from the company Christmas party at the bosses house” where he had been drinking beer and Jameson Irish whiskey, a police report said. He also allegedly told police he had been using cocaine, and that he knew he should not have been driving, according to the report.

“I know I shouldn’t have been driving.. I can’t believe I did this. I drank way too much. I am sorry,'' he allegedly told police at the crash scene, according to court filings.

Zemotel’s lawsuit says his daughter, though she survived, suffered a traumatic brain injury and multiple injuries to her shoulder, pelvis, and legs, as well as internal injuries that have required her family to spend “substantial sums” on treatment. Zemotel is seeking unspecified damages.

The tragic case has also had a ripple effect in state government.

The state Department of Transportation last month confirmed that it had launched a review of its multi-million dollar contracts with HiWay Safety in light of the crash. According to the state Office of Comptoller, HiWay Safety Systems was paid $4 million by the state in 2019.

"“We are saddened by this tragic incident and our thoughts are with the family and friends of the victim. MassDOT is extremely disappointed to learn of the circumstances surrounding this incident,'' the agency said last month in a statement. “We require that all of our contractors adhere to strict standards of safety and we are conducting a review into the status of Hi-Way Safety Systems Inc. with regard to active MassDOT contracts.”


John R. Ellement of the Globe Staff contributed to this report.

Travis Andersen can be reached at