Trucking firm must pay up in '08 death

A company that hired a meth-using trucker whose big rig hit and killed another truck driver on Siskiyou Pass in 2008 will have to pay $5.2 million to the deceased's family.

Toledo, Ohio-based trucking attorney Michael Leizerman, who represented the family, said freight broker Heyl Logistics did not perform due diligence before doing business with Seattle-based motor carrier Washington Transportation. The plaintiffs also said the company did not have valid insurance the day of the accident.

A jury empaneled at the U.S. Federal Court Building in Medford agreed on March 1 and supported the $5.2 million judgment, which will be paid to the four children of the dead trucker, Kelly Linhart of Blodgett. U.S. District Judge Owen Panner presided over the case.

Court documents show Linhart was inspecting his own semitrailer on the shoulder of Interstate 5 at the top of the Siskiyou Summit south of Ashland at about 3:30 p.m. on Sept. 25, 2008. Court records describe the day as clear and dry.

California trucker Daniel Clarey, who later admitted to using methamphetamine "one or two days before," was driving north hauling bottled water when he started to fall asleep at the wheel.

"He was jolted awake when he clipped the mirror of another trailer," court records state. "In response, Clarey pulled hard right and hit the back of the tractor-trailer Mr. Linhart had been driving, which was stopped in the wide shoulder of the right side of the road."

Other drivers had reported seeing Clarey's truck swerving across the road several miles before reaching the accident site.

Linhart was hit by Clarey's truck and killed instantly. The accident closed the right lane and shoulder of I-5 for more than four hours.

Leizerman said the accident could have been prevented had Heyl known Washington Transportation did not drug test its employees. Motor carriers are required to give random drug tests to employees, he said, adding that Heyl could have checked a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration website that includes a list of the companies that have met the requirement.

"(Heyl) claim(s) that they got some paperwork that satisfied them," Leizerman said. "We argued that that wasn't enough."

Court records also show Washington Transportation did not have valid insurance the day of the accident.

Clarey, of Long Beach, Calif., pleaded guilty to criminally negligent homicide and driving under the influence of methamphetamine in January 2009, court records show. He is serving a 40-month prison sentence that will conclude with three years of post-prison supervision, and was ordered to pay $7,904 in restitution.

"Our argument was Dan Clarey would never have been on the road if the company had followed the rules," Leizerman said. "It really is a lesson to brokers, make sure they're putting safe carriers on the road."

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or by email at

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