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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS - International trucking company CRST faces what could be a more than $350 million lawsuit for a more than two-year-old vehicle collision involving a driver hired by the Cedar Rapids-based company.
The lawsuit, which prosecuting attorneys say could be heading to a summer jury trial, alleges that CRST was negligent in employing a driver who had several traffic violations before ultimately being involved in a 2014 head-on collision that injured two men in Mojave, Calif.
According to the Los Angeles County court document, the vehicle being driven by CRST Expedited Inc. driver Hector Contreras crossed the centerline on July 7, 2014, and collided headfirst into a vehicle occupied by brothers Matthew and Michael Lennig, both from California.
The brothers received serious injuries in the incident, according to court documents, and Bruce Schechter, lawyer with California's R. Rex Parris law firm, said Monday both men still were undergoing surgery as a result.
The court document alleges both men still suffer 'physical, mental and nervous pain” as a result of the collision.
The lawsuit alleges CRST as an employer was liable for having employed Contreras, who Schecter said had about eight arrests on his record.
The arrests were 'for anything from theft to driving under the influence, to possession of paraphernalia,” Schechter said.
'They're hiring people who aren't fit for the job and increasing their retention rate by continuing to employ those individuals even after numerous times of misconduct,” said Kail Parris, also with R. Rex Parris
The suit seeks more than $350 million in punitive damages.
However, Lisa Stephenson, general council with CRST International, which operates CRST Expedited, said the company denies all allegations in the lawsuit.
'Ultimately CRST is confident it will be resolved in a favorable manner,” she said.
Stephenson, who said the company takes driver and public safety very seriously, noted she couldn't comment on specific details on pending litigation.
A jury trial date is pending, but attorneys with R. Rex Parris said it could take place as soon as this summer.
CRST International, headquartered in Cedar Rapids, has been operating since 1955, has annual revenues exceeding $1 billion and operates more than 4,500 trucks in the country, according to the company's website.
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