Roger and Tami Nash
February 26, 2004
Ardell DeBerg - CEO
In May 27, 1999, one of your employees was responsible for the death of our 17-year-old son, Justin and three other members of our church. As you are probably aware, we have been involved for over four years in litigation against your company that recently ended with the Alabama Supreme Court ruling against the families of the four victims that were killed.
Congratulations on your “victory”.
Needless to say, we are very disappointed with their ruling. I hope that you can understand that our family has suffered a loss that is beyond description. To a parent, there is no pain that is greater than to lose a child to such a senseless death. You will never understand the full extent of our loss. Justin was a fine Christian young man. He was handsome, polite, intelligent and very talented. In fact, all of those killed by your employee where wonderful, godly people. Connie was a college professor who was molding young minds to be good productive citizens. Jeannine was a loving grandmother who was an unmovable example of strength and faith, not only to her family, but to everyone who knew her. And Justin and Josh where two fine young men who had their whole lives ahead of them and would have made this world a better place.
Whenever this type of tragedy takes place, there are many more victims involved than just those who were killed. We have a lifetime of grief and pain ahead of us.
We brought this suit, not because we were after money, but because we wanted justice, and we had hoped that a successful lawsuit would cause your industry to rethink the way you do business. We would gladly give you anything, if only you would give Justin back to us. But of course, there is no one who can bring him back and nothing you can do to compensate for our loss. If we cannot have Justin back, we at least wanted to make everyone that contributed to his death be held accountable for their mistakes. But from the very beginning, you have refused to acknowledge any responsibility or to consider that there may have been something that you could have done to prevent this tragedy.
You are probably already saying to yourself, “It was not our fault”, “We had nothing to do with this wreck”, and “Roger Walker was not our employee”. That attitude is part of the problem. Nothing will change until you can see the role that your company plays in fostering an atmosphere of indifference about the quality of truck drivers that are hired for you.
It is our hope that this letter might help you to see how your policies, or the lack of policies, contributed to the wreck, and that you might make the necessary changes to help insure that no other family goes through the nightmare that we are going through.
There are several things that your company did that contributed to Justin’s death. Many of the problems stem from your desire to inflate the actual value of your services. While facing the victim’s families in the courtroom, it was stated over and over by ATS that they were “just a payroll company”, but your advertising, sales info, and web sites list the supposed benefits and services of employee leasing, such as removing from the trucking companies much of the responsibility for verifying that the drivers meet all the DOT regulations and other safety requirements. In our case, even though the driver listed on his application that he had been fired from his previous employer, Mercer, the owner of the small trucking company, felt no need to contact the previous employer because that was something that your company, as the “employer of record” was to do.
The DOT regulations give you a maximum of 30 days to contact previous employers, but of course if there are reasons to be concerned about a possible safety issue, you have the right to contact them before the driver is put on the road. Mercer was made to feel that he did not need to worry about background checks, employer verification, or other the “hassles” of having employees. That was why he hired the services of an employee leasing company.
I hope you can see that your company has a complete lack of policies about how to deal with possible safety concerns when hiring new employees and that this lack of policy contributed to our son’s death.
In fact, everything about the agreements between your company and your clients, and the agreements between your company and your employees, seem to be custom tailored to cause everyone involved to believe that you consider yourself the “sole employer”, and completely responsible for the employees you hire.
Can’t you understand why, after reading the enclosed ‘employment acceptance agreement’, we felt that ATS should be held responsible for the actions of Roger Walker? Why would you have your employee sign this form, and then claim that he is not your employee? Your whole industry seems to be built on a dishonest foundation that is geared to take advantage of loop-holes in the employment laws, but in doing so, you have also opened up loop-holes that allow unsafe drivers to get on the road and kill innocent people.
At the very
lest, please put into place a policy that instructs the motor carrier not to
allow an employee, that has be terminated by his previous employer, to drive
until the previous employer has be contacted to learn the reason for the
termination. In our case,
Please make some changes in the way you do business; maybe the life you save will be your child.
It would help very much if you would let us know of the changes that you have made. In fact, after nearly 5 years of silence, it would be helpful just to hear the words “I’m sorry.
Roger and Tami Nash
Cc. Rodney Jordan – V.P. Human Resources