Chief Justice Roy Moore 4-30-2003
Ref: 1011475 ATS, Inc., and ATS, Inc. of
Roger and Tami Nash
Dear Justice Moore,
We are writing to express our shock and disappointment with the recent Supreme Court decision involving those responsible for the death of our 17-year-old son, Justin Nash, and the three other members of our Gardendale church. All the families of the victims and members of our church are devastated.
We included ATS in this case because we believe that they, by their actions, contributed to our son’s death. There were many other companies that we looked at in determining who was responsible; the owners of the truck that they were pushed into, the construction company that was doing the road construction that caused the traffic to stop, and others. We decided not to involve these other companies because, as Christians we did not believe that it was the right thing to do. We could not honestly say that they were negligent, or that their actions caused our son’s death.
We gave much prayerful consideration to this action. We did not want to appear greedy, but we wanted to seek justice, hold accountable those who were responsible for his death and help bring about the changes needed to keep this from happening to others.
We involved ATS because they were the legal employer of Roger Walker. We involved ATS because they, by their business practices, fostered an atmosphere of carelessness in the hiring and safety management of their truck drivers. In their advertising, they claim to be responsible for making sure that their drivers meet all DOT requirements, but in reality, they consider themselves only a “payroll company” that is not concerned about the quality of drivers they employ and refuse to take responsibility for them. If they want to be a “payroll company” only, why was Walker required to sign a document stating that he was the sole employee of ATS?
We all know that was done to allow them to legally benefit from the buying power of having thousands of employees. But the problem comes from misleading statements like this that cause their clients to believe that this relationship will end all of their responsibilities towards the employees. How can a company that wants to take advantage of the benefits of claiming a person as an employee be allowed to refuse to accept the responsibility that comes with those benefits? Does the Alabama Supreme Court condone the fact that their clients and the public are being deceived?
We are afraid that your decision will only make this “loop hole” worst. There were many errors that led to the death of our son. Perhaps the greatest problem is the shortage of qualified drivers and the willingness of employers to hire drivers with little regard to safety. Please read the facts about our case to understand just how negligent all parties where in hiring this man. He should have never been on the road, and a responsible leasing company that was concerned about safety would have procedures in place to insure that no unsafe drivers were hired. Instead, their polices encourage an attitude of “he is someone else’s problem.”
Justice See’s opinion makes it sound like there is no controversy about this issue, but there is much uncertainty about the liability involving employee leasing companies. It is an evolving industry, with many questions being answered on a case-by-case basis, through litigation. Florida and other states have recently passed legislation dealing with this issue that spells out detailed instructions of how leasing companies are to word their contracts in order to escape liability. They recognized that the misleading and confusing language in their advertising, along with the very unorganized structure of the business relationship, made it unclear as to who was responsible under the many different aspects of the employer – employee relationship. The problems that can arise from the leasing of truck drivers should cause even more concern than it does in other industries, when you consider the potential danger to the public.
The small trucking companies that typically use the services of an employee leasing company have very little assets. They normally have (as in our case), only the minimum amount of insurance coverage, and the misleading wording of the leasing companies documents only adds to the lack of concern for our protection, financially as well as physically, by making the trucking companies think that someone else is responsible for the drivers.
This decision would be an unfortunate victory for ATS. It is an outcome that requires no change on their part in the way they do business; in the way they represent themselves to the trucking companies. There is great danger in allowing them to ‘go on doing business as usual’.
Justice Moore, I know that your court stands for justice and honesty. My wife, Tami and I were honored to vote for you. We have financially supported your stand for the Ten Commandments. We feel this decision does not uphold the commandment ‘Thou Shall Not Bear False Witness’. It allows ATS to claim to our government, and their customers, to be the full legal employer of Roger Walker, while never intending to be responsible for his actions. I remember during our trial, the lawyers for ATS instructing the jury not to pay any attention to the signed documents that said the truck driver was an employee of ATS because “They are just words on paper that don’t mean anything”. Please don’t send the message to the Christians of this state that you uphold such dishonesty.
Until the whole industry - trucking companies, employee leasing companies, and truck drivers are held accountable; our families continue to be at greater risk. Our family paid a terrible price for their carelessness. I pray that your children or grandchildren will never have to go through what we are going through.
Justice Moore, in our minds, this is not about money. We don’t care if you do away with the punitive damages and reduce the compensatory damages if you think that is needed. But after all we have been through, we can not bear the thought of this being a victory for an industry that killed our son, and continues to kill over 5000 people a year.
If you do not reconsider this decision, everything we have worked toward for the last four years will be lost. It just adds to our grief to think that ATS’s position will be stronger now than before we started. Please do not let them have the precedent of a Supreme Court Decision to justify their dishonesty.
Please help us to feel that at least our son’s death has made a difference in making this industry safer.
Please reconsider your decision and hold ATS, who is the legal employer of Roger Walker, responsible for their employee.
Roger & Tami Nash
5195 Tyler Oaks Drive
Mount Olive, Alabama 35117