A recent lawsuit illustrates how background checks can give employers the necessary information to avoid hiring careless or dangerous people who cause property damage or injury to others. As widely reported in the media, Cedar Rapids Steel Transport (CRST) is potentially facing $350M in punitive damages stemming from a lawsuit for a 2014 head-on crash in which a police officer and his brother sustained traumatic brain injuries.
Per attorney Khail Parris, who represents brothers Matthew and Michael Lennig, “CRST driver Hector Contreras has a long list of prior convictions ranging from driving under the influence, possession of drug paraphernalia, and felony grand theft auto. CRST had also been alerted by his co-driver that Hector Contreras posed a danger to the public at large.”
According to the complaint, “CRST failed to perform an adequate background check on Hector Contreras, failed to follow their own policies, and failed to pull Contreras off of the road following numerous accidents before the July collision.”
The lawsuit alleges CRST was liable, as an employer, because it hired Contreras as a driver. Specifically, the suit claims, CRST has “a history of malicious misconduct in hiring, investigating and retaining its employees.” The lawsuit asserts that CRST failed to perform an adequate background check on a driver who had been involved in four preventable collisions prior to the July 2014 crash—and whose criminal record included numerous driving-related convictions.
If the allegations are true, it is pretty clear that careful background and reference checking could have prevented this terrible accident. In a field where safety ought to be the top priority, even the most thorough background and reference checking would have cost a miniscule fraction of what CRST may ending up paying for not using reasonable care in the hiring process!