The state considered several options, Barnes said, and ultimately decided on a type of barrier that would be the least expensive, the easiest to install and would cause the least damage to the bridge deck.

Then in October 2000, the project was canceled, "just like that," he said.

Because those barriers were not installed, the state was negligent and therefore responsible for Ashley's death 10 months later, Barnes argued.

Knowing the safety problems with the bridge, the state did nothing to protect drivers and neglected the bridge to the point Mr. Connor hydroplaned and crashed into another car.


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The state's "failure to implement and get a barrier up caused the death of two people and injured two others," he said.

A concrete barrier topped with reflectors has since been installed the length of the bridge between the eastbound and westbound lanes.

State sought dismissal

The state defendants, claiming sovereign immunity from civil liability, tried to get the suit dismissed before it went to trial and at one point succeeded, according to the docket entries in electronic court records.

In October 2009, Harford Circuit Judge Emory A. Plitt Jr. issued a summary judgment in favor of the state defendants on grounds of immunity, but his order was appealed by the plaintiffs to the Court of Special Appeals, according to the court records.

In August 2011, the Court of Special Appeals reversed the summary judgment and remanded the case to the Circuit Court for trial, according to the records.

Before that, during 2007 and 2008, the state defendants tried to prevent the plaintiffs from obtaining certain documents from them during the case's discovery phase, claiming "executive privilege." Plitt, however, denied their motions, records show, and then also denied their request to stay his order while they appealed.

The documents release order also went to the Court of Special Appeals, which, in June 2008, upheld the Circuit Court's order, according to the case record.

Robert Miller, an expert witness for the state with CED Investigative Technologies, testified Thursday.

He described the many factors that cause hydroplaning, saying that water creating a barrier between the tire and road was only one.

"Hydroplaning is a function of vehicle speed," Miller said, adding that tire pressure and wear are also involved.

Sgt. Keith Budnick was the investigating officer at the scene in 2001. Budnick was a patrol officer with the MdTA assigned to the Hatem Bridge at the time of the crash.

That day in August was particularly rainy, he testified. Budnick was one of the first officers on the scene of the accident and was about half a mile away when he heard the call come in over the radio. He drove 5 miles per hour with the wiper blades on the highest speed because it was hard to see through the rain.

Barnes asked how bridge conditions looked that day.

"Extremely wet because it was pouring rain," Budnick answered. He said he couldn't recall how much water was on the bridge, or if it was standing or draining off.