Chief Justice Roy Moore 5-9-2003
Ref: 1011475 ATS, Inc., and ATS, Inc. of
Roger and Tami Nash
Dear Justice Moore,
We are writing again to ask you to reconsider the recent Alabama Supreme Court decision involving those responsible for the deaths of our 17-year-old son, Justin Nash, his 16-year-old friend, Josh Beddingfield, Josh’s aunt, 47–year-old Connie Beddingfield, and 70-year-old Jeannine Crawford.
We know that you probably receive many letters, such as this, for every decision that is made, but we just hope that we can say something that will cause you to understand just how difficult this decision is for us, and more importantly, it is our hope that you will come to see that this decision is the inappropriate decision for this case.
We are not lawyers, we are just average citizens. We know that our perspective of this case may be biased, but we feel that it is important that someone be held responsible. When you have had a child killed because of the carelessness of others, it is very hard to look at things from a casual viewpoint, but we have been asked to do that on numerous occasions.
For example, we were asked to accept the fact that the truck driver would not face any criminal punishment for causing the deaths of four people. The circumstances surrounding the wreck were so unexplainable that he was arrested at the scene and charged with four counts of Negligent Homicide. He just drove his truck into the back of a stopped vehicle that had been sitting stopped for nearly a minute before he came up behind them. He was not drunk or on drugs, he was not speeding or driving “recklessly”, he just didn’t stop. Although we, like the officer at the scene, still believe that it is negligent and reckless to drive your 80,000 pound vehicle into the rear of a stopped car, we have had to accept that the criminal justice system does not often pursue traffic cases that involve negligence unless there are drugs, alcohol, or speeding involved. His case was not held over to the Grand Jury, and he was allowed to return to driving trucks. He probably has sleep apnea, and continues to put the public at risk, but we are told there is nothing we can do about it.
Then, we were asked to accept the fact that the trucking company had no assets, was in debt, and had the minimum amount of insurance, so we might as well settle for the insurance and release him from the case. We didn’t want to, but we were asked to accept the facts.
When we learned about the driver being a leased employee, we looked at the relationships between the parties involved, and determined by the documents and the facts, that the leasing company was also partially responsible for the situation. We had a judge here in Jefferson County agree that there was enough question about the case that a jury should determine their liability. We went through two weeks of a very difficult trial, and the facts convinced a very conservative jury that the leasing company was jointly liable. At last we felt somewhat vindicated.
But now, we are asked to accept the judgment that, in spite of what the facts may point to, and the documents may say, the leasing company is not the “real” employer of Roger Walker. What else would they need to say, if indeed, they wanted to be held responsible for him? Not a single person to whom we have shown the “ATS Acceptance of Employment”, can believe that this court ruled that ATS is not responsible for Roger Walker. We always believed that a judge’s job was to look at the facts of the individual case - not at the way an industry wants it to be, but to look at the truth as determined by the facts in that case.
If the Employee Leasing companies want to be just a provider of administrative duties, without the liability of being the employer, then let them structure their industry that way. Let them do away with the underhanded deceit of operating within loopholes in the law. Why can’t they be open in their advertising, and honest in the wording of their contracts? Because if they were forced to do so, their services would not seem to be the value to small companies that they want them to appear to be. They would loose business. Although they advertise otherwise, ATS was more concerned with making a profit than with making sure that the drivers they lease are safe and qualified. That is what came to light in our two weeks in court.
It was easy to go to the Internet and look up the cases that were referenced in Justice See’s opinion. It was also easy to look for other cases that involve the “borrowed servant” argument. What amazed us were the contradictions and inconsistencies from one opinion to the next, even within the same State. It looks as if a Court could uphold ether side of this issue; depending on who they want to protect. We pray that this Court will take the side that is based on honesty, truth and the protection of innocent victims, and not the side based on deceit, deception and loopholes used by big companies.
Please understand that we do not want this letter, in any way, to seem disrespectful to the highest court in our state. In fact, we have the highest regard for all the Justices of the Alabama Supreme Court. That is why we were so shocked with the ruling that was given. It is just that we are no longer willing to accept defeat. Those that contributed to Justin’s death in any way must be held accountable. Would you not do as much for your child?
But we are convinced that upon honest review of the facts, this court will ultimately let the Jury decision stand. Perhaps then, as has happened in other states, legislation can be passed to deal with the issue of employee leasing company practices. This would be one more step on the way to making our roads safer.
May God continue to bless you and guide you in all your decisions.
Roger & Tami Nash
5195 Tyler Oaks Drive
Mount Olive, Alabama 35117