The couple injured in a head-on wreck involving a driver who should have lost his license months earlier has filed a lawsuit against the man. The effort may clarify whether the driver had permission to use a family member’s vehicle despite a judge’s sentence that should have revoked his license.

Nicole Kumiega and Ethan Wyman were injured March 4 when a pickup truck driven by Ethan Rioux-Poulios, 26, of Woodstock, crossed the center line along Oxford Street in Paris as he fled a traffic stop by Oxford Police. The crash set Rioux-Poulios’s truck on fire, but he fled again, stole a vehicle parked nearby and led officers on a second leg of a pursuit that ended in his arrest, according to court records.

The couple’s attorney filed the lawsuit out of concern that an insurance claim could be denied because the truck Rioux-Poulios was driving was owned by his father, John Poulios, who has distanced himself from his son’s wreck and claimed to know nothing about it when reached in March by a reporter. Poulios, who runs J.P. and Son Paving, did not return a message seeking an interview last week.

The three-page complaint, filed last week in Cumberland County Unified Court, alleges Rioux-Poulios was negligent and failed to operate his vehicle in a safe and reasonable manner when he crashed the 2010 F-150 pickup head-on into Kumiega’s 2020 Ford Edge SUV, gravely injuring her. The lawsuit alleges that Rioux-Poulios was intoxicated at the time. Police found what appeared to be drug residue on a piece of aluminum foil in his pants pocket when he was arrested, court records show.

The couple’s attorney, Taylor Asen, of the Portland firm Gideon Asen LLC, said the lawsuit will enable an independent investigation, separate from the insurance company’s work, to determine whether Poulios had permitted his son to use the vehicle, a key factor in determining whether or not Poulios’ insurance will cover the claim and pay up.

“If they (deny the claim), that means our clients will be left to see if they can get any money out of Mr. Rioux-Poulios, which seems like a very unlikely prospect given that he’s spent a lot of the last couple years in prison, in jail,” Asen said. “That would be a terrible injustice, and we needed to file this lawsuit so we can, in part, investigate the coverage issues ourselves.”


Asen said he hopes the lawsuit will generate tips about Poulios’ relationship with his son and whether the two had an agreement, even tacitly, that Rioux-Poulios was permitted to use his father’s vehicle.

“We’re going to look for corroborating witnesses who can help us understand what happened that day and how Ethan-Rioux Poulios got access to his father’s vehicle, and finally we’re going to look at some records that can hopefully help us understand the nature of their relationship, hopefully emails and phone records.”

A request for an interview sent to Rioux-Poulios’s attorney, Laura Maher, went unanswered.

Rioux-Poulios was convicted of one count of manslaughter for an eerily similar crash that followed a 2019 police chase, a sentence that should have triggered the revocation of his license. But the revocation never went through because of a bureaucratic gap in how the courts and the Bureau of Motor Vehicles were sharing information when a driver had been convicted of a crime that should trigger a revocation or suspension.

He pleaded guilty to manslaughter in July 2021 and was sentenced to serve two years of a seven-year term and released on time served. The crash on Route 26 in Woodstock on May 20, 2019 killed 70-year-old John Pikiell of Norway.

Press Herald reporting after the recent crash brought to light the fact that Rioux-Poulios still had his license despite his conviction.


The courts and the BMV responded by developing a new process that they say will reliably convey the conviction information to the BMV, but it’s still unknown how many cases slipped through the cracks as Rioux-Poulios’ did before the new process took effect. State prosecutors have promised to review 10 years of cases to examine how widespread the problem may have been in the past.

Since Rioux-Poulios’ crash, the state has identified fewer than a half dozen recent cases in which drivers convicted of serious crimes such as manslaughter did not lose their licenses as intended. BMV staff say they are working to obtain the necessary information to suspend those drivers.

Rioux-Poulios was still on probation for his manslaughter conviction when he was rearrested in March, and is being held at the Oxford County Jail on $75,000 cash bail. He faces charges including two counts of aggravated assault, reckless conduct with a dangerous weapon, eluding an officer, driving to endanger and leaving the scene of a motor vehicle accident involving serious bodily injury.

Before the wreck, Kumiega, 28, had recently begun work as a labor and delivery nurse at Maine Medical Center, said Asen. Her injuries nearly killed her, and she has spent the nearly two months since the crash making slow progress toward recovery.

Kumiega’s injuries included lacerations to her liver and spleen, a brain contusion, damage to her lungs and heart and fractures in her pelvis, back and arms, according to the lawsuit. Her recovery will take months if not years, Asen said, and it’s likely she will live with the effects of the crash forever.

Wyman’s physical injuries, which included severe contusions, were less catastrophic, but he experienced severe emotional distress, Asen said. He had to call Kumiega’s parents to inform them of the crash and to tell them that their daughter might not survive.

Asen said Kumiega may never fully recover, and still has a long road ahead before she can resume work and live a normal life.

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