Trucker, Firm Are Named in Lawsuit

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The wife of an optometrist who was killed when a big rig plowed through a red light in Anaheim Hills filed a wrongful-death lawsuit Monday against the driver and the trucking company that employed him.

In the March 8 accident, trucker Anthony Robert Saiz was allegedly driving under the influence of methamphetamine when his overloaded big rig careened down a steep grade.

He barreled into the intersection, setting off a 12-vehicle collision that instantly killed Kenneth Michael Larkin, 53, of Anaheim Hills.

Attorney Wylie Aitken said much of the police investigation has focused on Saiz, 48, of Lakewood, who has pleaded not guilty to charges of gross vehicular manslaughter, felony driving under the influence and driving with an expired license.

Aitken said this lawsuit also targets Saiz's employer, Peterson Brothers Construction, which later received an unsatisfactory rating during an inspection by the California Highway Patrol.

"I don't think that . . . one can merely ascribe this as being an inattentive driver," Aitken said. ". . . He had an overweight, overloaded vehicle on a high, steep grade with bad brakes."

The lawsuit seeks punitive damages against Saiz and Peterson Brothers and details numerous oversights by the company, including:

* Ignoring at least three notices from the Department of Motor Vehicles that Saiz's license had expired;

* Ignoring traffic violations for bad brakes, speeding and overloaded trucks that Saiz had received;

* Allowing Saiz to drive a vehicle that was nearly 5,000 pounds overweight down a steep grade;

* Improperly drug-testing drivers. Investigators found a plastic bottle of urine in Saiz's truck that they said he might have carried in case of a random drug test.

Officials with the trucking company, who had not yet been served notice of the lawsuit, declined to comment Monday.

General manager Peter McNabb has said that the company overhauled many of its practices in response to the accident. It hired an outside firm to take over management of the 205-vehicle fleet, instituted a driver certification program and retrained the drivers and mechanics, he said.

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