Family denied last hours with dad

| 2/22/2002

On New Year's Eve, while on the road, trucker Michael Doty collapsed and in less than 24 hours died from an abdominal aortic aneurysm. Imagine Michael, fighting for his life in a strange hospital, assuming his family had been notified and hoping to see his wife walk through the door. Imagine Bobbi Doty, at home, totally unaware of her husband's collapse. By the time she found out, it was too late to make it to his bedside. What happened?

On New Year's Eve, Doty, an owner-operator and OOIDA member from Skiatook, OK, pulled into a TA truckstop outside Spartanburg, SC. While inside, he suffered what appeared to onlookers to be a heart attack. Paramedics were quickly called to the scene as Michael expressed concern about his truck and repeatedly asked for someone to contact his wife and his carrier, Cannon Express.

Shortly after Michael was taken to a nearby hospital, a night manager at the truckstop allegedly made a phone call to Cannon, letting them know what had happened to their owner-operator. During the call, the manager said the family had not been notified and asked that they be contacted immediately. Cannon never made that call.

At the hospital, doctors determined the main blood vessel to Michael's heart had ruptured. Surgery to repair the artery was delayed several hours as doctors waited for Michael's dangerously low blood pressure to climb. Twelve hours later, with little improvement in his condition, doctors decided they no longer could delay the surgery. As Michael was prepared for surgery, a doctor called his home. It was the first time his wife, Bobbi, learned something was wrong.

As family made preparations to rush to Spartanburg, Michael was wheeled into surgery. He passed away about nine hours later. His family was still hours away.

The family is left asking why Cannon never contacted them. They have yet to receive an explanation. "I feel that (Cannon) robbed us of the last hours we could have spent with him had we been contacted prior to the hospital's call," Bobbi says. "We lost 12 hours because Cannon didn't bother to call."

Bill Elliot, director of operations at Cannon Express, told Land Line that it is not the company's policy to call the family in such cases because "the company does not know what's going on." Cannon apparently did call drivers to the Spartanburg truckstop to transfer Michael's load into another truck.

Once in town, the family drove to the TA truckstop on Interstate 85 at exit 63 to try and find out exactly what happened. The family says employees at the truckstop confirmed two Cannon drivers were at the truckstop to pick up the load only hours after Michael was rushed to the hospital.

"He was hauling jeans to Texas," Bobbi says. "The jeans were more important to them than the man behind the wheel."

Over the next few days, the family says the company also made it difficult to retake possession of his truck. As the family prepared to put Michael to rest and bring his truck back home, they say Cannon continued to complicate matters. "Cannon initially told us they would make sure the truck was returned to us," says Bobbi, "only to reverse themselves days later claiming their liability insurance wouldn't allow them to bring the truck to us, which I can understand, but why tell us initially you will do something if you really can't."

Bobbi says Cannon also was unwilling to discuss Michael's finances, claiming they had 45 days until required by law to divulge the information. "We still haven't received any clear word about Michael's finances," she says. "We only received a final paycheck because we persisted. It just feels like they don't want to acknowledge us."

Michael's son-in-law, Jeff Brace, and a CDL-holding family friend, drove back to Spartanburg to retrieve the truck. "When we told Cannon we were going to pick up the truck and bring it home, they asked us to stop at their headquarters in Springdale, AR, so mechanics could remove the truck's satellite system," Jeff says. "Once we arrived, employees began ripping off the truck's plates, permits and license. They took everything off because they said it was their property."

Jeff pleaded with Cannon to reinstall the plates so they could take the truck home to Oklahoma. "Bobbi needs to sell the truck to help pay for funeral costs and other expenses," says Jeff. "But they didn't care." After a few hours, Cannon agreed to reattach the plates. "They made sure we knew they wouldn't release Michael's escrow and settlement until we sent the plates back to them," he says.

The family has been upset most by what they perceive by Cannon to be a complete disregard to Michael's memory and what he did for the company. "He worked with them since last August," Bobbi says. "He believed in them so much he even bought about 1,000 shares of their stock. This is his thanks?"

"They have hundreds of awards and certificates of achievement displayed on their walls about how good they are and they got them because of their drivers," Jeff says. "How could a company receive all these awards and honors and then treat the memory of my father-in-law with such disdain and outright cruelty?"

Bobbi says the family has been overwhelmed by the support and kindness of hundreds in the trucking industry that sent cards, letters and donations after hearing Michael's story on Truckin' Bozo. "The people who have contacted us have been so kind," says Bobbi. "Truckers are generous and wonderful people."
-- Keith Goble, staff writer

Click here to link to Cannon's response