Officer thrown from I-83 sues driver, vehicle owner

The Baltimore police officer who was thrown over the side of Interstate 83 and fell 20 feet after a car crashed into her vehicle as she helped a stranded motorist has filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against the driver and the owner of the vehicle.

The driver, 23-year-old Robert R. Vanderford, is scheduled to appear in District Court this week for a trial on traffic charges related to the June 21, 2011, incident. The charges include failure to control vehicle speed to avoid a collision, failure to reduce speed in dangerous weather and driving while his license was suspended in another state.


In a lawsuit filed last month in Baltimore Circuit Court, Officer Teresa N. Rigby alleges that Vanderford, of the 5400 block of Lombardy Place, caused the crash after speeding to pass a vehicle that was moving "too slow."

The suit also names Lawrence J. Archambeault, whose listed address is the same as Vanderford and who Rigby's suit claims "supplied his automobile to Vanderford even though he knew or should have known that Vanderford had prior traffic violations and a suspended driver's license." Rigby says Vanderford was an "agent/servant/employee" of Archambeault, making him responsible for Vanderford's conduct.


Rigby is seeking $15 million in damages, according to the complaint.

An attorney for Vanderford, Gary S. Bernstein, declined to comment and Archambeault could not be reached. Rigby's attorney, Frank E. Trock, was unavailable, his office said.

The Northern District officer was standing on the northbound shoulder near the Pepsi sign about 9:30 a.m. helping motorist Ashley Sims. A towtruck had hooked up Sims' vehicle and Rigby was walking to her vehicle to do paperwork, according to the complaint.

That's when Vanderford, driving a 1999 Saab, attempted to change lanes to pass the vehicle in front of him and lost control of his vehicle. The rear end of his car slid out and across the lanes of I-83, striking Rigby's marked patrol car. The car struck her, sending her over a concrete barrier.

Rigby was taken to Maryland Shock Trauma Center in critical condition, suffering broken bones in her face, leg and pelvis. She underwent several surgeries and was later transferred to a rehabilitation unit.

At the time, police said Vanderford, whom the agency did not identify, might have been distracted by the flashing lights atop Rigby's cruiser.

"It's been documented that when there is an accident on the road, people get [distracted] by the flashing lights," a spokesman said. "When they do that, they sometimes steer into that scene, and that is how tragedies happen."

Rigby was "forced to incur medical expenses, future medical expenses, and suffered other damages, including, but not limited to, future lost wages and future medical care," according to the suit.


The Police Department's chief spokesman, Anthony Guglielmi, said he believes Rigby has not returned to duty since the accident.