Man Sues Government for $9.5 Million After Snowmobile Collision

( – A man who was disabled in a March 2019 snowmobile crash is suing the federal government, claiming the Blackhawk helicopter that he crashed into at night should never have been there.

Jeff Smith, 48 at the time of the crash, was riding his snowmobile on a well-known trail in Worthington, Massachusetts, at night. The trail ran through part of a long disused private airfield on Albert Farms, whose owners had given the U.S. Army permission to land their 64-foot Blackhawk aircraft on.

Smith was riding his snowmobile at night on a trail he knew well, only to be shocked by running straight into the tail section of the helicopter, which he said was not illuminated. Now, he’s suing the Army in federal court for $9.5 million. Smith lost functionality in his left arm, has experienced long-term breathing problems, and has endured multiple surgeries to correct the damage.

He says the money he hopes to win from the suit will help pay for an electronic prosthesis that would give him at least partial use of his arm. Smith claims his health is even worse today than it was directly after the crash, saying, “It feels like I’m in a worse place” than he was after the initial surgeries after the accident.

The federal government has used multiple arguments to try to get the court to dismiss the suit, unsuccessfully so far. Government officials say the incident involved a policy decision, and therefore Smith can’t sue the government under the Federal Tort Claims Act. Government lawyers have also said Smith was going too fast (65 mph) and had drunk beer and taken prescription pills. They also say the U.S. District Court does not have jurisdiction over this claim.

Smith’s lawyer disagrees. Douglas Desjardin said the Army should have known it was a bad idea to land a helicopter on an active snowmobile trail. He also noted that the Army’s investigation established that the chopper crew did not mark or illuminate the craft after they landed it.

A ruling from the U.S. District Court in Springfield, Massachusetts, is expected sometime later this spring.

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