California trucking company charged with manslaughter

| 9/21/2001

A California trucking company has been ordered to stand trial on manslaughter charges after a crash killed one of its drivers. Prosecutors contend the truck's brakes failed because of poor maintenance.

Superior Court Judge Bruce A. Clark charged R.P. Cummings trucking company of Westlake Village with one count of voluntary manslaughter in the death of Patrick Hildebrand, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Hildebrand was hauling 7,000 gallons of crude oil down a 7-percent grade near Santa Paula in February 2000. His brakes failed about a half-mile from the bottom and his rig flew off a cliff, killing the driver and spilling thousands of gallons of oil into a creek.

Investigators determined the truck's brake linings were worn down to the rivets, and other brake equipment was out of adjustment, the newspaper reported. Investigators accused Cummings of not maintaining its trucks and ignoring driver complaints.

Earlier this year, the company had the case dismissed by a Ventura County judge, but the district attorney's office won an appeal when Judge Clark found there was sufficient evidence to prosecute the company.