COLLEGE, PA – A lawyer representing families of those killed in the Jan. 6,
2004, crash on Interstate 80 said Feb. 13 that a lawsuit against several
drivers and trucking companies involved in the crash came about because of “the
horrible loss of life and injuries sustained” in the 44-car pileup.
trucking companies, several of which are based in Pennsylvania, and nine
truckers are listed as defendants in a 76-count civil suit filed Feb. 10 by the
families of the six people who died as a result of the crash.
A 10-week investigation by the state police blamed on low
visibility and vehicles traveling too fast for conditions. No criminal charges
were filed, and no traffic citations were issued.
not sue every person in the accident. We sued the people who we thought were
culpable and therefore liable for our clients’ deaths,” said James E. Whelton
Jr., a partner with Tremba Jelley and Whelton, of Greensburg, PA.
named in the suit are:
- Robert Nuzzo of Pittsburgh and Roehl
Transport Inc. of Marshfield, WI;
- Attila Polyak of Richland, WA, and Floyd
Blinsky Trucking Inc. of Yakima, WA;
- William W. Miller Jr. of Altoona, PA,
McClellan Transport Inc. of Tyrone, PA, and Arthur Smith Trucking Inc. of
- Michael R. Rice of Hamilton, OH, Voyager
Truck Line Inc. of Cincinnati and two Penske Truck Leasing Co.
- John C. Davis of Smithmill, PA, Roger
(aka Rodger) Kephart Trucking Inc. of Houtzdale, PA;
- Bryce F. Wiborg of New Ulm, MN, Roger
Hammond of Hanska, MN, and D&A Truck Lines of New Ulm, MN;
- Michael B. Toro of Stroudsburg, PA, and
three FedEx subsidiaries; and
- Bradford L. Nadeau of Barre, MA, and Dart
Trucking Company, of Canfield, OH.
documents obtained by the Centre Daily Times on Sunday show that the
families think that actions by certain truck drivers, rather than weather
conditions, caused the pileup.
police, after consultation with the Centre County district attorney’s office,
said no individual’s actions rose to the level that would merit prosecution for
any serious offense, such as homicide by vehicle or reckless driving.
bringing the lawsuit contend the six victims died as a result of multiple
impacts and the subsequent fire that engulfed the wreck, according to court documents.
of Casper and Anita Aleo, Edward and Catherine Horn, Robert Culp, and Robert
Reeder claim that, among with other actions, the truck drivers were driving at
unsafe speeds, failed to keep a reasonable lookout for hazards, and failed to
use or apply brakes or take any reasonable steps to avoid collision. The
trucking companies, they say, employed the drivers with full knowledge of their
poor driving records, failed to enforce Department of Transportation
regulations about how long drivers were on the road and failed to train these
drivers to effectively operate in inclement weather.
addition to the numerous wrongful-death claims filed against the truckers and
their companies, truck driver Florian Schreier, of Santa Rosa, Calif., is suing
Nuzzo, Roehl Transport, Polyak, Floyd Blinsky Trucking, Miller, McClellan
Transport, Arthur Smith Trucking, Rice and Penske Truck Leasing for personal
injury. Attempts to contact Schreier on Feb. 13 were unsuccessful.
to the documents, Schreier sustained significant injuries, including a
fractured pelvis and a dislocated hip. His injuries have left him unable to
work, he says.
according to the lawsuit, drivers William W. Miller Jr. and Michael Rice “were
seen ‘flying’ past other vehicles at speeds far in excess of what would be safe
under the conditions which included, but were not limited to, a slick roadway
with limited visibility.”
and Rice lost control of their tractor-trailers and set off the chain reaction,
the document said.
Davis then collided with the vehicles on the road, starting another
chain-reaction. In that chain, Bryce F. Wiborg and Roger L. Hammond, driving
separate D&A tractor-trailers, hit the wreck.
It is at
that point, the document said, that victims Edward Horn, Robert J. Culp and
Casper J. Aleo came upon the accident scene. The three cars were able to avoid
according to the document, driver Michael B. Toro, who was hauling dual tandem
trailers behind his cab, “was driving at speeds well above those which would
have allowed him to stop.” Toro’s tractor-trailer hit all three cars, pushing
them between his vehicle and the D&A truck stopped in front of them.
Nadeau’s vehicle, which may have been hauling hazardous materials, approached
the scene, it crashed and ignited the materials it was carrying.
Attorney Whelton said that because all 20 defendants must
be served with papers and then answer the lawsuit, it could be “two to three
months before we’re in front of a judge.”
that,” he said, “depends on how the defendants answer.”
By Lara Brenckle
Reprinted with permission from
the Centre Daily Times and www.centredaily.com