A Corinna man claims that a driver for a Bangor social service agency was responsible for his wife’s August 2020 death when he insisted that she wear a face covering in the car on a hot day instead of using her oxygen while on the way to cancer treatment.

Gregory Richards, 61, filed the lawsuit Friday in Penobscot County Superior Court against Penquis CAP Inc., a non-profit social services agency in Bangor that serves low-income residents of Penobscot, Piscataquis and Knox counties. Its services include transporting people from their homes to medical appointments and treatment.

The driver is not named in the complaint and was not sued.

Sally Richards, 59, of Corinna died on Aug. 5, 2020, after collapsing in the driveway of her home, according to Gregory Richards’ attorney, Peter Clifford of Portland. The temperature that day was 83 degrees Fahrenheit.

She was undergoing treatment for lung cancer with COPD at the time of her death, Clifford said Tuesday. Penquis CAP was scheduled to drive her to Northern Light Cancer Care in Brewer for treatment.

When the car arrived, Sally Richards got into the backseat with her oxygen tank and her husband got into the front seat, Clifford said. The hot car made it difficult for her to breathe.

The driver allegedly told her to put on a face covering as a precaution against spreading COVID-19, which violated pandemic guidelines in place at the time that specified that people with breathing problems were not required to wear masks.

She protested wearing a mask instead of being able to use her oxygen as she had done during previous trips provided by Penquis CAP, the lawyer said.

“An argument developed,” Clifford said. “The driver refused to give in. He advised her that she could either put on the mask or would not get a ride.”

Sally Richards got out of the car and canceled the ride, the lawyer said. Her husband got out of the car and followed her up the driveway, where she collapsed and died a short time later.

“An experienced cardiologist has linked the stress of the event and the hot car to her collapse and sudden cardiac death,” Clifford said.

Gregory Richards is seeking on behalf of his wife’s estate unspecified damages to pay medical and funeral expenses, and for emotional distress and loss of comfort, society and companionship, according to the complaint.

Gregory Richards also is seeking unspecified punitive damages.

The lawsuit claims that Penquis CAP was negligent and did not properly train its drivers.

“We believe Penquis was negligent and is legally responsible for the death,” Cifford said. “As a ‘common carrier,’ responsible for the safe transport of medical patients, it breached its heightened duty of care to Sally. The family’s hope is that medical drivers get better training, and that important medical safety information be properly communicated to drivers and other medical providers.”

Michael Martin, the Portland attorney representing Penquis CAP, declined Tuesday to comment on the lawsuit.