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Family of U.S. couple killed on California highway suing Abbotsford trucking company

The couple were hit by a car and then minutes later, a tractor-trailer driven by an employee of Bill's Trucking crashed into the crash scene. U.S. court documents say 23-year-old driver had four times legal limit of alcohol in system. Their children are suing the driver, the company and others for $10 million US

The children of a couple killed in a vehicle crash in California are suing a long-haul trucker and the Abbotsford trucking firm where he worked for $10 million US.

Ernest Landwehr, 54, and his wife, Nancy Robles Landwehr, 46, were killed on a California highway near the Oregon border on June 28, 2021. The Landwehrs were driving in a Mazda sedan from their home in Yuma, Ariz., on their way to Klamath Falls, Ore., when a Honda driven by Melissa Molina crossed into the Landwehrs’ lane and hit them head on.

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Passersby stopped to help, but minutes later, a tractor-trailer driven by Harjot Singh, then 23, crashed into both vehicles.

A report in the Klamath Falls Herald and News said Singh had initially been charged with felony vehicular manslaughter, multiple counts of driving under the influence with injury, and that he had a blood-alcohol level of 0.15, more than four times the legal limit for commercial truckers in the U.S. Most charges were later dropped and Singh pleaded guilty to one count of driving under the influence with injury.

Ernest’s daughter, Victoria (Vicki Anne) Landwehr, is the plaintiff representing the couple’s estates in the lawsuit filed in the Superior Court of California. It is seeking damages for the “loss of love, care, comfort, companionship” from the couple, according to the claim filed in Siskiyou County.

The lawsuit also seeks “economic and non-economic damages” and notes that the surviving children include Nancy’s two sons, Manuel and Emiliano Guerena.

The defendants are listed as Singh, Bill’s Trucking (Singh’s employer), and Molina.

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The lawsuit claims the defendants are liable for the accident because of general negligence.

The plaintiff alleges “Molina and Singh were driving while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs (that) impaired their abilities to safely operate” their vehicles.

Bill’s Trucking was included as a defendant because it had “failed to educate, train or enforce its own operations policies” and “knew or should have known that Singh was unfamiliar with safe driving operation,” according to the claim.

Bill’s Trucking operates in the U.S. and Canada, and Singh had been working in the U.S. longer than was allowed by his work visa, the claim states.

The company’s owner, Bill Buttar, said in an interview that Singh had pleaded guilty to one count and had been deported to India after serving part of his sentence because his visa was no longer valid.

Buttar said the accident is still under investigation, but he understood that the Landwehrs may have been killed by the first impact.

ICBC is handling the defence of his lawsuit, said Buttar.

The lawyer for the Landwehr family is travelling to the Vancouver area later this fall to conduct interviews for the case, a representative for the lawyer said in an email.

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The email said the children were suing for $10 million US, which includes compensatory damages for direct losses and punitive damages, which are meant to not reimburse butto punish the defendant. Punitive damages are of smaller amounts and less common in Canadian courts than in the U.S.

Under ICBC’s current no-fault system, a dependant of someone killed in a crash receives $34,670 to $65,381, depending on age. A dependant with disabilities is entitled additional payment of $31,935, according to the B.C. insurer.

Non-dependant children of the deceased could receive a $16,256 payment. And surviving spouses are entitled to a payment of at least $72,995. Family are also entitled to up to almost $10,000 for funeral expenses and more than $4,000 each for grief counselling, according to icbc.com.

None of the allegations have been proved in court.

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