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Press release content from Globe Newswire. The AP news staff was not involved in its creation.
PRESS RELEASE: Paid content from Globe Newswire
Press release content from Globe Newswire. The AP news staff was not involved in its creation.

Baum Hedlund Says Albertsons Kept Doing Business with Trucking Company Involved in Fatal Crash

July 8, 2021 GMT

BOISE, Idaho, July 08, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The families of three Air Force service members killed in a 2018 truck crash have filed for punitive damages against Albertsons Companies, Krujex Freight Transportation Corp. (KFTC), Penhall Company, and Specialty Construction Supply Company for their roles in causing the fatal accident.

On June 16, 2018, Senior Airman Lawrence Manlapit III of Connecticut, Senior Airman Carlos Johnson of Florida, and Senior Airman Karlie A. Westall of South Dakota were in a Jeep Wrangler idling in bottlenecked traffic on the eastbound side of Interstate 84 in Boise, Idaho.

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At around 11:32 p.m., a truck driven by 42-year-old Illya Tsar slammed into the back of Wrangler, initiating a chain reaction crash and massive fire. SrA Manlapit III, SrA Johnson, and SrA Westall tragically lost their lives in the fiery truck crash. All three were stationed at Mountain Home Air Force Base outside of Boise.

Truck accident attorneys from Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman and other lawyers representing the families allege a series of “reckless” and “outrageous” decisions on the part of KFTC, Albertsons, Penhall, and Specialty caused the truck crash that killed the Air Force service members. The attorneys filed a motion today to add a claim for punitive damages against the companies to “punish, and hopefully, deter the repeat of such events that led to this horrific fatal collision that took the lives of three innocent people and devastated their respective families.” The filing explicitly calls out Albertsons for its “conscious disregard for the safety of the traveling public.”

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“At every step—from the truck driver all the way up to Albertsons—no one took safety seriously enough to prevent this horrible crash that prematurely ended three remarkable lives,” says attorney Clay Robbins III. “The trucker’s driving record had numerous red flags that would have been easy to find if anyone had bothered to check. KFTC hired him without looking into his background, and the trucker continued to add to his lengthy history of driving violations. Albertsons failed to vet KFTC, even though the company had no safety rating. Even when the FMCSA gave KFTC an ‘Unsatisfactory’ rating after this crash, Albertsons continued to retain KFTC for months.”

Robbins adds, “I want to be very clear: SrA Manlapit III, SrA Johnson, and SrA Westall would still be alive today if the defendants didn’t sacrifice safety to save a buck.”

Tsar, an employee of KFTC, was also killed in the crash. Authorities later cited Tsar for inattentive driving and found that Tsar had violated hours-of-service requirements by driving for many hours more than the legal limit for commercial truckers both the day before the crash and the day of the crash. Witnesses said Tsar was having trouble staying in his lane in the moments before the fatal crash, presumably because he had been on the road for longer hours than the law allows over a 48-hour period.

A post-crash examination indicated that Tsar should not have been allowed to drive a commercial truck because he had a driver out-of-service violation for failing to have Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) mandated electronic logbooks (ELDs are used to record driving and working times electronically). In fact, before the fatal crash in 2018, Tsar had amassed 20 commercial driving violations, including two license suspensions.

According to today’s court filing allegations, KFTC did “virtually nothing” to vet Mr. Tsar before retaining his services and sending him out on the road as a truck driver. Hiring Tsar without performing any due diligence showed a “complete disregard” for industry safety principles designed to keep the motoring public safe, the attorneys allege. As for the company itself, the attorneys say KFTC had no safety management policies or procedures in place, and as such, its drivers were “routinely allowed to violate hours of service rules.”

Albertsons contracted KFTC in June of 2017 to transport and deliver freight. As the second-largest supermarket chain in North America with its own fleet of hundreds of trucks, Albertsons has an understanding of motor fleet safety management standards, policies, practices, and procedures.

However, much like KFTC’s vetting of Tsar, Albertsons “made no effort” to ascertain whether KFTC had safety management controls or to ensure the company complied with industry safety standards, attorneys allege. For example, KFTC did not have an FMCSA safety rating at the time the contract was signed. In fact, KFTC did not receive an FMCSA safety rating until it was deemed ‘Unsatisfactory’ in the wake of the 2018 crash.

According to the court filing, if Albertsons had bothered to examine KFTC’s safety record, they would have seen that KFTC had driver out-of-service rates many times higher than the national average. In November of 2017, for example, KFTC’s driver out-of-service rate was 37.5%—over seven times higher than the national average.   

Arguably the most troubling allegation from the court filing is that Albertsons continued to assign loads to KFTC for months after the fatal collision and long after KFTC received an ‘Unsatisfactory’ safety rating from the FMCSA.

Lastly, attorneys allege Penhall and Specialty’s “extreme deviations from reasonable standards of conduct were a proximate cause of this senseless and horrific fatal crash.” Penhall was the construction company responsible for the highway maintenance on the eastbound side of I-84. Specialty was responsible for traffic control. Attorneys allege that both companies went against a professional licensed engineer’s traffic control plan and reduced the number of highway lanes from four to one at a late night hour, creating a dangerous condition that exposed motorists to the risk of rear-end collisions. According to the filing, Penhall and Specialty were aware that reducing the lanes created a dangerous condition, but neither company did anything to rectify the situation.

About Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman

Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman attorneys Ronald L. M. Goldman and Clay Robbins III represent Mr. Lawrence Manlapit, Jr., the father of SrA Lawrence Manlapit III, in his wrongful death lawsuit against Albertsons, KFTC, Penhall, Specialty, and other defendants. Attorneys for Mr. Manlapit, Jr. filed suit on April 11, 2019. Today’s court filing seeks to add punitive damages to punish and hopefully deter the repeat of such events that led to this horrific fatal collision that took the lives of three innocent people and devastated their respective families. Trial is scheduled to begin in District Court of the Fourth Judicial District of the State of Idaho, In and For the County of Ada on February 22, 2022.

The accident attorneys from Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman have decades of experience holding negligent trucking companies accountable. Since 1973, the firm has won more than $4 billion in verdicts and settlements for clients, including those harmed in truck crashes.

Read more details here, including access to the documents just filed.

A photo accompanying this announcement is available at https://www.globenewswire.com/NewsRoom/AttachmentNg/b63215b9-c0ac-4c3f-b132-462079aef038

Contact info:

Contact: Robin McCall, Director of Public Relations
Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman, PC
Main Office - Los Angeles
10940 Wilshire Blvd., Ste. 1600
Los Angeles, CA 90024
Phone: (310) 207-3233
Email: rmccall@baumhedlundlaw.com
Website:  https://www.baumhedlundlaw.com/
 Contact Robin to request the relevant orders.