A nurse who was seriously injured in a New Hampshire crash that killed seven motorcyclists in 2019 has filed a civil lawsuit against the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles, alleging the agency acted recklessly by failing to process out-of-state notifications about license suspensions for tens of thousands of drivers, including the commercial truck driver from West Springfield who is accused of causing the collision.
The complaint was filed on behalf of Joshua Morin, 48, on Monday in Berkshire Superior Court, records show. Morin, a Marine veteran from the Berkshires, was driving through Randolph, N.H., on June 21, 2019 with motorcyclists from the Jarheads Motorcycle Club when a 2016 Dodge pickup truck towing a flatbed trailer in the opposite direction crossed the highway’s double yellow line, authorities said, and veered into the group’s path.
Seven people were killed. Morin broke his pelvis and left leg and sustained other injuries. Since the crash, Morin said he’s undergone 24 surgeries and has plans for another one.
In the aftermath of the tragedy, Massachusetts officials revealed that the Registry should have suspended the commercial license of the truck driver, Volodymyr Zhukovskyy, weeks before the crash because he refused a chemical breath test in Connecticut in May 2019. Officials in Connecticut sent electronic and paper notices to their counterparts in Massachusetts about the suspension, but the Registry never processed the alerts.
The lapse, officials later said, wasn’t an isolated incident, but rather the product of longstanding neglect by the Registry which had stopped processing out-of-state notifications about license suspensions years earlier, creating a back log of tens of thousands of notices. Following the crash, the Registry established a unit dedicated to processing notifications about out-of-state violations and has called for a centralized, federal system for exchanging driver violation notices.
On Thursday, a spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, which oversees the Registry, said the agency hadn’t received Morin’s complaint yet and doesn’t comment on pending litigation.
Morin said the Registry should be held accountable for the years it spent ignoring out-of-state notifications.
“This was willful human error,” he said. “For me as a registered nurse, if I were to willfully ignore a doctor’s order and a patient got hurt, I would personally be held accountable for that.”
As a result of his injuries, Morin said he can no longer work as a nurse and now holds an insurance company job that pays about half of what he was earning before the crash.
“I have these skills that I can’t use because I’m physically limited by my injuries,” he said.
The lawsuit cites a report by the National Transportation Safety Board, which investigated the crash and faulted the Registry for “systemic deficiencies” and “inaction to rectify a known problem.”
The NTSB’s findings echoed the Globe’s Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation “Blind Spot,” which exposed how government negligence has for decades allowed drivers with menacing traffic records to remain on the road and documented loopholes rampant in the trucking industry’s regulatory system.
Morin’s lawyer, Sam Radner, said he first contacted the Registry about the case last February.
“We believe that the law supports our allegation that the Registry of Motor Vehicles acted in a willful, wanton, and reckless manner by basically not processing these out-of-state notices and not having a system set up to handle the out-of-state notices for an extended period of time,” he said.
A criminal trial in New Hampshire for Zhukovskyy, 26, is scheduled for July. He has pleaded not guilty to multiple counts of negligent homicide, manslaughter, driving under the influence, and reckless conduct and has been jailed since shortly after the crash.