Suit filed in fatal boating accident claims operator was negligent


The father and son of a Glen Burnie man killed in a boating accident two years ago have filed a $2 million suit against the estate of the boat's pilot, who also died in the accident.

Lewis R. Johnson, 33, and Robert E. Sievers Jr., 38, both of the first block of Phyllis Drive in Glen Burnie, were killed about 7:30 p.m. Oct. 18, 1992, when Mr. Johnson's 23-foot powerboat hit a piling supporting the Chesapeake Bay Bridge's eastbound span.

The accident occurred as Mr. Johnson drove his Sundance powerboat to Sandy Point State Park after an afternoon of fishing, according to Maryland Natural Resources Police.

The suit, filed late Monday in Anne Arundel Circuit Court, names Mr. Sievers' father, Robert Sievers Sr., and son, Garrick Sievers, as the plaintiffs. It alleges that Mr. Johnson did not keep a proper lookout and was driving "in a careless and dangerous manner" when he hit the piling. The collision threw Mr. Sievers from the boat and onto some rocks.

The suit says "the collision was caused by the recklessness, carelessness and negligence of the defendant."

hTC James Miller Jr., another passenger on the boat, survived the accident. The day after the accident, Mr. Miller, 28, of the 7000 block of Farragut St. in Hyattsville, told Natural Resources Police that Mr. Johnson "wasn't looking" when the collision occurred.

He also said Mr. Johnson had turned around and was talking to him about the engine "slipping," a mechanical problem he had just fixed by speeding up, according to his statement to police. The boat was going between 35 and 40 mph when it hit the piling, Mr. Miller said.

Bob Graham, a Natural Resources Police spokesman, said an autopsy showed Mr. Johnson had a blood alcohol level of .21 at the time of the accident, well above the legal limit of .10. He also said police investigators decided the driver's failure to keep a proper lookout had caused the accident.

Mr. Johnson's widow, Linda Johnson, of Phyllis Drive in Glen Burnie, disputed that finding. She said her husband was always a careful boater. Mrs. Johnson said she believes a faulty cable that caused the slipping of the engine is to blame.

"He knew that water so well, I still believe today that it was the fault of the boat," she said.

She said her husband and Mr. Sievers were good friends. She also said the accident has left her to raise her 7-year-old daughter by herself.

"I lost out here, too. I lost my husband," she said.

Christopher P. Brown, the plaintiff's lawyer, said the suit was filed because the Allstate Insurance Co. refused to pay out fully on the $200,000 insurance policy Mr. Johnson held on the boat and its occupants.

The company's offer was less than half of the $200,000 specified in Mr. Johnson's policy, he said.

Craig Nemecek, a spokesman for the Allstate claims office in Millersville, said the company was negotiating with the plaintiffs when the suit was filed and that the negotiations likely will continue.

"It's not that we denied the claim, it's just that there's a discrepancy as to its value," he said.

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