Highway safety took a huge step this week when a jury in federal court in Medford, Oregon agreed with us in a negligent driving and hiring case and rendered a $5.2 million verdict.
I am proud to have represented the family of Kelly Linhart, who was killed on Sept. 25, 2008, when Daniel Clarey, a truck driver high on crystal methamphetamines, plowed into him on the side of Interstate 5 near Ashland, Oregon. We argued that Heyl Logistics, the broker that hired Clarey’s employer, Washington Transportation, to haul goods for bottled water giant Nestle Waters North America, failed to do due diligence. The jury agreed and awarded Linhart’s four adult children a verdict of $5.2 million, including punitive damages.
Washington Transportation was without insurance and without operating authority. Its owners, brothers Eric and Forrest Rangeloff, who share a checkered past as owners of 15 different trucking carriers, had their license revoked for, among other violations, failing to perform drug testing on their drivers. The jury agreed with us that Heyl Logistics should have known about Washington Transportation’s safety violations before hiring it to haul goods of Nestle.
The decision should serve as a stark reminder to trucking brokers nationwide that, while federal regulations on brokers may be few, the courts remain as watchdogs against the practice of negligent hiring.
This was not about winning a huge monetary verdict. This was about safety – safety on our roads – and about reminding brokers that safety standards compromised in the name of saving a few bucks will not be tolerated.