After the crash: Recovery slow after Cabarrus Sheriff’s deputy hit motorcycle

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Sarah Nagem
Salisbury’s Clifford Goodman hadn’t ridden his new Harley-Davidson much in the spring of 2007.
On April 13 of that year, a friend asked Goodman to drive to the antique car show at Lowe’s Motor Speedway. Goodman saw it as a chance to try out his new ride.
“It was a pretty day, and I hadn’t had the bike long … so I was wanting to ride it,” Goodman, 47, says.
He and fiancee Cathy Wells left their home off Old Concord Road and hopped on the 2002 Harley.
In Concord, Goodman was set to turn left into the speedway’s parking lot.
He remembers seeing a Cabarrus County Sheriff’s cruiser at the intersection, but he couldn’t have predicted what would come next.
“My fiancee said, ‘He’s gonna ó’ and she never got ‘hit’ out of her mouth,” Goodman says. “He T-boned us. Everything went black.”
Cabarrus Sheriff’s Deputy Richard Measimer had been working security at the antique show. After the crash, he told Concord Police he hadn’t seen the motorcycle as he pulled out of the parking lot onto Morehead Road.
The collision sent Wells flying off the bike.
“When I woke up, I was laying on the other side of the highway, and traffic was coming from everywhere,” she says.
Goodman wasn’t as lucky. The cruiser ran on top of the bike, and Goodman fell under the bike, his right leg crushed by the combined weight of both vehicles, Goodman says.
Measimer backed his car off the bike, but Goodman says he still couldn’t move.
In the months that followed, Goodman had several surgeries to fix his shattered lower right leg.
He says bills he’s accumulated since the accident, along with lingering medical problems, have thrown him into a financial mess. He says he could lose his home.
In court records, no one is disputing that Deputy Measimer was at fault in the accident. But a Concord police officer did not actually cite Measimer in his report.
And county officials have not offered any help for Goodman, requiring him to find an attorney and begin the lengthy process of suing those involved.
Goodman thinks the situation would have gone very differently if he had been driving a car and struck a motorcyle cop.
“I would have been thrown up underneath the jailhouse,” he says.
He wonders why Cabarrus County officials won’t treat him like they would want one of their employees treated.
No comment
Goodman says Measimer apologized to Wells the day of the accident. He told her he had never hit anyone with a car before.
That’s the last he and Wells have heard from the Cabarrus County Sheriff’s Office.
Wells says she suffered a concussion in the accident, and Goodman’s injuries were more extensive. Rescue workers took him to Carolinas Medical Center-NorthEast.
In the first of four surgeries, doctors put pins and rods in his right leg. About a week later, they used plates and screws to reconstruct his knee.
Sometime during his hospital stays, Goodman contracted MRSA, an infection that can be deadly.
Last summer, Goodman says, doctors had to flush out the infection from his injured leg. A few months later, he says, they decided to remove the plates altogether because of the MRSA.
The surgeries have left Goodman with a long scar down the inside of his lower right leg. He also has what he describes as a flounder-shaped mass of skin and tissue on his outer right leg, where he had gotten a skin graft.
Life didn’t return to normal for Goodman and Wells after the accident.
“I had to re-learn how to walk,” Goodman says. “I couldn’t use my right leg at all.”
With a leg that was practically useless, Goodman needed a lot of help. So Wells quit her job at McDonald’s to tend to her fiance.
“I was his nurse (for) about eight months,” she says.
She changed the bandages on his leg and gave him shots to fight the MRSA infection. She also drove him to Charlotte regularly for doctor appointments.
Hard times
Goodman was born and raised in Rowan County.
He has been on disability since 1996 due to panic attacks. He receives $650 a month in disability payments, he says.
In the past, he has worked as an auto mechanic and a welder. Before the accident, he often fixed people’s cars in his garage, earning $100 a week or so.
The money came in handy.
“That’ll pay your bills and buy a few groceries,” Goodman says.
But now he says his leg injuries prevent him from standing for long periods of time.
“Now I have to pay to get my own vehicles fixed ’cause I can’t get down to fix them,” he says.
His problems go beyond that. Although Goodman says Medicaid is taking care of his medical bills, he’s in danger of losing his home.
He says he’s behind on house payments, and he has been forced to go to Rowan Helping Ministries for help with the electricity bill.
Goodman and Wells recently split up. He says the accident put a big strain on their relationship. Goodman thinks things might have been different if he had been able to hire a nurse to care for him.
No help
In June 2007, Goodman’s attorney, Robert Hanner, who works for a Charlotte law firm, asked Cabarrus County officials to pay $1,000 a month for an in-home nurse.
In a letter to Cabarrus County Attorney Richard Koch, Hanner said any money the county advanced for a nurse would be deducted from any future lawsuit settlement.
“We tried very hard to see if they would advance some money, at least for nursing care,” Hanner said.
The county declined to give Goodman and Wells the money.
The county’s role in the accident ó and the lawsuit ó has been up for debate. The original suit, filed in January, lists Cabarrus County as a defendant.
But Hanner said he took the county off the lawsuit because of governmental immunity ó a provision in state law that basically exempts governments from civil lawsuits.
“A local government cannot be sued for the acts of its agents, its employees, when they are going about their basic duties for that government entity,” Koch says.
That immunity can be waived if the government entity buys liability insurance. The waiver amounts “to the extent we have purchased insurance,” Koch says.
He says Cabarrus County has some insurance but does not know how much.
The defendants’ response to the lawsuit admits that Measimer was negligent in the accident.
But Concord Police, which responded to the crash, did not cite him for a traffic violation, according to police records.
In an e-mail last month, Kenneth Raynor, who is representing the defendants in the case, declined to comment since the case because of the pending suit.
In the meantime, Goodman and Wells are trying to get by. She is working again, although she says she still has dizzy spells.
Goodman is waiting to find out what happens with the lawsuit.
“Sometimes you feel like you can never catch a break,” he says.