Boise, Idaho, November 9, 2021 - - Ada County District Court Judge Peter G. Barton ruled to allow the families of three Air Force Service members who died in a 2018 truck accident to pursue allegations for punitive damages against multiple defendants.
Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman truck accident attorney Clay Robbins III represents the family of Senior Airman Lawrence “Pit” Manlapit III, who died in the crash, along with Senior Airman Carlos “C.J.” Johnson, and Senior Airman Karlie A. Westall who are represented by other counsel.
In July of 2021, the families asked the Court to allow them to add punitive damages to the complaint against defendants Albertsons Companies, Krujex Freight Transportation Corp. (KFTC), Penhall Company and Specialty Construction Supply Company. According to the allegations, the defendants’ “outrageous” and “reckless” decisions led to the crash that killed 26-year-old SrA Manlapit III, 23-year-old SrA Johnson, and 21-year-old SrA Westall, who were all stationed at Mountain Home Air Force Base outside of Boise.
Judge Barton ruled in the families’ favor last week on two significant issues:
- Plaintiffs’ motion to add punitive damages against KFTC, Penhall, and Specialty Construction was granted. Judge Barton noted that plaintiffs assembled sufficient evidence to show “reasonable likelihood” that they could “by clear and convincing evidence” show at trial that conduct on the part of KFTC, Penhall, and Specialty was “oppressive, fraudulent, malicious or outrageous.”
- Plaintiffs’ motion to assert for joint and several liability was granted against the defendants in two groups:
a. For the actions and conduct of KFTC (the carrier) and Albertsons (the shipper)
b. For the actions and conduct of the state of Idaho and construction entities Penhall and Specialty Construction.
On the night of June 16, 2018, SrA Manlapit III, SrA Johnson, and SrA Westall were sitting in traffic on the eastbound side of Interstate 84 in Boise, Idaho due to an ongoing construction maintenance project that reduced traffic from four lanes down to just one. Penhall Company, and Specialty Construction Supply Company were the companies that oversaw the construction maintenance project and provided traffic control. Attorneys for the plaintiffs allege the companies were motivated to bottleneck traffic because Penhall was running behind on the construction project and wanted to avoid financial penalties under the contract.
At around 11:32 p.m., KFTC truck driver Illya D. Tsar slammed into the back of the vehicle occupied by SrA Manlapit III, SrA Johnson, and SrA Westall. The impact started a chain reaction crash and fire that killed SrA Manlapit III, SrA Johnson, and SrA Westall.
Tsar, 42, was also killed in the fatal crash. He worked for KFTC, a trucking company that contracted to transport and deliver freight for Albertsons, one of the largest supermarket companies in the U.S.
After the initial investigation, law enforcement officials cited Tsar for inattentive driving. The media reported that Tsar not only had 20 commercial driving violations prior to the fatal 2018 crash, he also had his license suspended on two occasions. Attorneys for the plaintiffs note that Mr. Tsar should never have been behind the wheel of a commercial vehicle because of a driver out-of-service violation for failing to have Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) mandated electronic logbooks.
“It’s pretty clear that none of the defendants in this case took safety seriously,” said attorney Clay Robbins III, who represents the Manlapit plaintiffs. “Three promising young lives were tragically cut short because these companies decided that saving money was more important than saving lives.”
As for Judge Barton’s recent ruling, Robbins is looking forward to presenting the allegations to a jury next year, starting in February.
“We are gratified to have the opportunity to pursue punitive damages and vindicate our clients’ rights, given the reckless and extreme deviation from reasonable standards of conduct by these companies,” Robbins says.
“While presently there are no punitive damage allegations against Albertsons, we are confident that the evidence we will have admitted at trial will demonstrate that Albertsons is no different than the other defendants in this case; they all chose to cut corners on safety. This conscious disregard for human life warrants punishment, and we have every intention of holding all responsible parties accountable to the fullest extent that the law allows.”
Trial for the case of Manlapit et al. v. Krujex Freight Transport Corp. et al. (Lead Case No. CV01-19-06625) will start on February 22, 2022 in the District Court of the Fourth Judicial District of the State of Idaho, County of Ada. According to Robbins, it will be a bifurcated trial in two phases. The first phase addresses evidence relevant to causation. If the jury finds that the defendants caused the crash, plaintiffs proceed to the second phase, which will focus on the defendants’ knowledge, conduct, and damages (both compensatory and punitive).
About Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman
Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman truck accident attorneys represent Lawrence Manlapit Jr., the father of SrA Lawrence Manlapit III, in his case. Our firm filed a complaint on Manlapit Jr.’s behalf in 2019 and will take the case to trial next year with newly-added punitive damages against Krujex Freight Transportation Corp. (KFTC), Penhall Company, and Specialty Construction Supply Company.
With decades of experience successfully resolving hundreds of truck accident claims, Baum Hedlund has a proven track record of success against negligent trucking companies and operators. Across all areas of practice, the firm’s attorneys have won more than $4 billion in verdicts and settlements.