Lehigh Valley

Parents of injured student sue Lafayette College

Freshman Aubrey Baumbach was hit by a car after rowing practice

ALLENTOWN, Pa. - A lawsuit for negligence has been filed against Lafayette College in Easton and two of its coaches by parents of a student who was struck by a car last November.

Robert and Lisa Baumbach of Sudbury, Mass., are taking the action on behalf of their daughter, Aubrey Baumbach, who has been incapacitated by "catastrophic injuries" she received on Nov. 8, 2013.

They are seeking in excess of $50,000 damages for each of six counts.

They are suing the college and its coaches for their daughter's past and future medical expenses, loss of past and future earnings, past and future pain and suffering, mental anguish, humiliation, emotional distress and loss of life's pleasures.

The suit was filed Thursday in Lehigh County Court by Atty. Thomas R. Kline of Philadelphia, who represents the Baumbachs.

Also named as defendants are Richard Kelliher, identified as head coach of the men's and women's rowing programs at Lafayette, and Allison Sobiech, assistant coach of the rowing teams.

According to the suit, Aubrey Baumbach began studying as a freshman at Lafayette in August 2013.

Shortly after arriving, she joined the college's crew team, which was coached by Kelliher and Sobiech.

The team practiced out of the college's boathouse, along the Lehigh River about two miles from the campus.

The boathouse is along Lehigh Drive, described as a road with many bends and turns on which vehicles drive at a high rate of speed.

With no sidewalks or other walkways, pedestrians are forced to walk next to the road.

The college did not provide transportation for crew members to get to the boathouse.

On Nov. 8, Aubrey Baumbach and other members of the crew team went to practice in a teammate's car.

They could not park at the boathouse because its parking lot was blocked by "a large vehicle, operated at the behest of Lafayette College and defendants Kelliher and Sobiech."

The driver of the vehicle Aubrey was in had to park farther than usual from the boathouse, requiring the teammates to walk along Lehigh Drive, which had no sidewalks and, in some portions, no shoulder.

The practice ended at about 6 p.m. Nov. 8. It was dark outside, according to the suit, when Aubrey Baumbach and her teammates walked back to the vehicle along Lehigh Drive.

They walked in single file, "as far from the roadway as conditions permitted."

Aubrey was stuck by a motor vehicle traveling east on Lehigh Drive. The force of the impact threw her about 20 feet.  Her injuries included a severe traumatic brain injury.

Those injuries left the young woman physically disfigured, according to the suit.

Less than three months before, another vehicle had struck and killed a pedestrian walking along Lehigh Drive.

Despite that previous accident, the suit maintains the college and coaches failed to provide transportation to the rowers, did not provide them with a safe pathway or safe parking accommodations and did nothing to illuminate the roadway in the vacinity of the boathouse.

Instead, it contends crew team members were forced to park far away from the boathouse and walk to their vehicles in the dark.

The suit also maintains the college and its co-defendants failed to regulate traffic along Lehigh Drive while crew members were walking to their cars and failed to properly supervise them as they did so.

The suit contends Lafayette College "intentionally misrepresented" that is was safe for students to park in a lot not adjacent to the boathouse, despite knowledge that doing so would force them to walk for hundreds of yards along Lehigh Drive, exposing them to a significant risk of harm.

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