Trucker, Company Sued in Fatal I-12 Wreck in Louisiana

August 25, 2009

A Baton Rouge, La., woman initially believed to be at fault in an Interstate 12 crash that killed three members of a Mississippi family last summer is suing Waste Management Inc. and the company truck driver later blamed for causing the accident.

Ruth Fort, who seeks an unspecified amount of damages, alleges in her lawsuit that James C. Lane, of Baton Rouge, operated the Waste Management 18-wheeler in a “careless, inattentive and reckless manner” and at an “excessive rate of speed under the circumstances.”

State police accused Lane of driving 63 mph in a 50 mph zone.

His truck was carrying a full load weighing more than 69,000 pounds, an arrest warrant says.

The accident occurred July 29, 2008, on I-12 eastbound near the East Baton Rouge Parish-Livingston Parish line just west of the Amite River bridge.

Fort’s lawsuit, filed in state district court in Baton Rouge, says she suffered “severe, permanent, painful and disabling injuries” to various parts of her body.

Rene Faucheux, a Waste Management spokesman for Louisiana, said last week he could not comment on pending legal matters. He also refused to discuss Lane’s employment status.

Lane, 41, was booked last August at East Baton Rouge Parish Prison on three counts of negligent homicide, two counts of negligent injuring and a single count of reckless operation of a vehicle.

Lane told investigators he looked down at his dashboard for a second before changing lanes and ramming into nearly standstill traffic, a State Police report says.

The crash killed Phillip Van Alstine, 36; his wife, Shyla Van Alstine, 34; and their daughter, Haylie Van Alstine, 7, all of Vancleave, Miss. Another daughter, Kaytie Van Alstine, 4, was severely injured.

Family members have said the Van Alstines were on a summer vacation in Baton Rouge that included a visit to Blue Bayou Water Park and were on their way to Bass Pro Shops in Denham Springs at the time of the crash.

The day after Lane was arrested by state police, relatives of the Van Alstine family filed a wrongful death suit against Lane, several Waste Management corporations and others in federal district court in Mississippi.

The federal suit accuses the defendants of willful, wanton negligence in the deaths and injuries.

Information from: The Advocate,

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