Judge dismisses family’s lawsuit against college

A lawsuit against Lafayette College, brought by the parents of a former club crew team member who was severely injured in a hit-and-run, was dismissed by a Pennsylvania judge.

The car accident took place on Lehigh Drive when a drunk driver hit former crew team member Aubrey Baumbach while she was walking from crew practice at dusk with her teammates.

Lehigh County Judge Edward Reibman threw out the suit against the college, head coach of the crew team Richard Kelliher and former assistant coach Allison Sobiech, writing that the college could not be responsible for students who are injured “while going back and forth between the main campus and satellite facilities.”

The original suit, filed in 2014, accused the college, Kelliher and Sobiech of negligence and intentional misrepresentation. It alleged that although all parties knew the road, which has no sidewalks or walking paths, was dangerous, they failed to provide appropriate safeguards.

Reibman also found the intentional misrepresentation claim unjustifiable.

“It is plain that a person using his common sense could conclude that there is a certain level of risk associated with being a pedestrian on a roadway with no sidewalks or walking path,” he wrote in his opinion earlier this month.

The risk of being hit by a drunk driver, he added, is always a risk when walking on a road.

Baumbach was nearly killed by the hit-and-run, which broke her back and fractured her skull. Her injuries also included severe brain trauma and a collapsed lung.

“The Baumbach family is deeply disappointed in the ruling and will appeal shortly,” the attorney representing the Baumbachs, Thomas Kline, wrote in an email. “There is no doubt in their mind that Lafayette owed a duty to Aubrey and badly failed their now catastrophically brain injured daughter.”

Spokesman for the college Roger Clow wrote in an email that “the court made the right decision.”

The college is waiting approval by the Easton zoning hearing board Monday to install a new dock to be used by the crew club on the Lehigh River at 620 Lehigh Drive, according The Express-Times.

The dock, Clow wrote, will be located about an eighth of a mile east from the current boat house. There is a building already on the property, which will be used to store the team’s boats and other equipment, according to Clow.

The project was already approved by the Easton planning commission, according to The Express-Times.

President Alison Byerly declined comment on matters of litigation, but wrote in an email that “Aubrey continues to be in the thoughts and prayers of all of us at Lafayette.”

Wilson David Kneebone, who was accused of hitting Baumbach, pled guilty in July of last year to the charges of aggravated assault and driving with a suspended license. Two other charges against him were dropped, as part of a plea bargain, according to court records.

Kneebone was sentenced to 15 months to seven years in state prison, according to The Morning Call.

About William Gordon

William Gordon '17 is the editor-in-chief of The Lafayette. He writes about student government, law, financial aid and music. He's studying English and government & law with a minor in economics.

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