The widow of a man who died after falling out of his wheelchair in a Rock County Transit van is suing the county, saying the death was caused by the driver’s negligence.
In a lawsuit filed Nov. 15 in Rock County Court, Annette Miller claims Michael Erickson, the driver of a county transit van, failed to properly secure her husband, Paul Miller, and his wheelchair during a trip Feb. 26.
The suit claims the wheelchair tipped backward when Erickson accelerated quickly while turning, causing Paul Miller to fall out of the chair. The 82-year-old man suffered serious injuries from the fall and died Feb. 28, according to the suit.
The suit claims Annette Miller lost the “love, compassion, companionship, income and services” of Paul Miller because of Erickson’s negligence. In a claim filed in June, Annette Miller asked for $350,000.
Rock County Corporation Counsel Richard Greenlee would not comment on the suit. He said the county will hire outside counsel through its insurance carrier.
Rock County Transit is a transportation service provided by the Rock County Council on Aging for residents ages 55 and older and people with disabilities. The county hires transit drivers through Manpower, a private staffing company based in Milwaukee. Rock County, Manpower and Erickson are listed as defendants.
In a video obtained by The Gazette, Paul Miller recounts the incident to visitors shortly after being taken to Mercyhealth Hospital and Trauma Center in Janesville.
“I went right over backwards and hit flat on my back and my head against the back wall. That’s what hurt … my head against the back wall,” Paul Miller says in the video.
Paul Miller’s son, Kurt Miller, told The Gazette in May he wanted to know more about Manpower’s driver training.
“I don’t feel we need to take a pound of flesh from this driver. Accidents happen, and I’m sure he (Erickson) feels terrible,” Kurt Miller said in the May interview.
Elaine Snyder, 72, was aboard the van during the trip with Miller, and she corroborated the lawsuit’s claims in May.
“They are supposed to hook up the wheelchair in four different places, and he (Erickson) only hooked two of them,” Snyder told The Gazette then.
Annette Miller and the estate of Paul Miller are listed as the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, and Medicare is a subrogated plaintiff. The suit lists four claims of negligence and two claims for punitive damages and wrongful death.
An attorney for Annette Miller did not respond to a phone call or email Wednesday.