Impaired Teen Driver Collides With Illegally Parked Semi-Trailer Killing Three, Survivor Files Suit
Snohomish County, WA – The father of the sole survivor of a deadly 2017 crash has filed a lawsuit against the trucker, trucking companies, and trailer manufacturer he says is “grossly negligent” for his daughter’s serious injuries.
Ryan O’Laughlin, father of 17-year-old Kiley O’Laughlin, has filed suit in King County Superior Court alleging the “reckless” and “reprehensible” actions of a trucker, multiple trucking companies, and a trailer manufacturer led to a triple-fatal accident on July 26, 2017.
On July 25, 2017 at approximately 4:52 p.m., trucker Sanjiv Phambota, owner of SP Trucking, parked a Wabash semi-trailer — owned by McKinney Vehicle Services and leased to Key Trucking — in the emergency lane northbound on Alderwood Mall Parkway.
Phambota parked the semi-trailer in the wrong direction with the front (kingpin side) facing oncoming traffic without adhering to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) requiring the deployment warning triangles or other warning devices.
He then proceeded to his nearby home leaving the trailer unattended.
A short time later, a tractor-trailer owned by Spirit Transport Systems Inc. (STS), parked behind Phambota’s illegally parked trailer. (See image below.)
According to investigators, 16-year-old Landon Staley of Everett, WA was driving a 2006 Kia Sorento SUV with three passengers, including Kiley O’Laughlin (who was 15 at the time), northbound on Alderwood Mall Parkway at approximately 4:05 a.m. the next morning when the vehicle smashed into a semi-trailer.
When the SUV struck the trailer traveling at approximately 56 m.p.h. in a 40 m.p.h. zone, the roof of the vehicle sheered off causing catastrophic fatal injuries to Staley and two other passengers, Mikayla Sorenson, 15, of Bothell, and Travin Nelson-Phongphiou, 16, of Everett. (See image below.)
Kiley was seated in the rear passenger seat and suffered life-threatening injuries to her head, face and torso resulting in more than $100,000 in hospitalization and physical therapy expenses.
Snohomish County Police investigators later determined Staley was impaired by marijuana and driving too fast at the time of the crash.
Further, Staley only had an intermediate license which prohibited him from transporting passengers.
Phambota was cited for a parking infraction and later pleaded guilty.
In May of 2020, Ryan O’Laughlin filed suit asking for “all damages including past and future medical expenses and other health care expenses, pain and suffering, both mental and physical, past and future permanent partial disability and disfigurement, loss of enjoyment of life, damages to property, past and future special damages, loss of consortium, and other damages.”
The lawsuit names as defendants Wabash National Corp., Trillium Management Inc., McKinney Vehicle Services Inc., Key Trucking Inc. (which hired Sanjiv Phambota and SP Trucking), Spirit Transport Systems Inc. (STS), and the estate of Landon Staley.
According to the complaint, Wabash failed to add the Department of Transportation (DOT)-required red and white reflective conspicuity tape on the kingpin side of the Duraplate semi-trailer.
It also alleges Trillium, parent company of McKinney, had a duty to review Key Trucking’s background to determine if the motor carrier was safe before renting/leasing or otherwise allowing others to use its semi-trailers.
Further, O’Laughlin contends Key Trucking and SP Trucking (Phambota’s company) failed to “exercise due care while parking the Wabash semi-trailer by, among other things, positioning the Wabash semi-trailer in a careless, negligent, and dangerous manner.”
Additionally, O’Laughlin argues the negligence of STS also worsened the impact of the crash.
“The combined total weight of the Key Trucking (trailer) and STS (tractor-trailer) removed any ‘give’ the empty Wabash semi-trailer had available, thereby magnifying the forces of the impact and increasing the severity of the injuries for rear seat passengers,” the complaint states.
O’Laughlin is also seeking to recover damages from Staley’s estate.
“Landon Staley negligently operated his vehicle by causing or allowing it to leave the highway and strike the Wabash semi-trailer,” the complaint states. “As a result of Landon Staley’s negligence, individually and combined and concurring with the negligence of other Defendants, Plaintiffs are entitled to recover their economic and non-economic damages.”
According to the Herald Net, O’Laughlin’s legal counsel, Chris Davis of the Davis Law Group in Seattle, has indicated he intends to add Snohomish County to the complaint as a defendant.
Davis alleges law enforcement officials did not properly enforce the parking laws along that stretch of road for years.
“It was only a matter of time before something like this was going to happen,” Davis told the Herald Net.
TransportationNation.com will continue to follow this case.
Photos courtesy of Davis Law Group