*This post contains material which may be disturbing to some readers*
A United States District Court in Montana recently had a rather horrific torts case added to its docket. A woman, Kimberly Kriege, is suing a trucking company, CRST Expedited, for the emotional trauma she suffered after finding a man's face on the floor of a car wash. Kriege, who works as a veterinarian, drove into a Livingston, MT Super Car Wash and found a man's face on the floor in September of 2013.
She promptly called the cops who initially treated her as a suspect. The face belonged to 81-year old Elgie Bedford. Bedford's car had broken down and he was walking along Interstate 90 when he was struck and killed by a CRST Expedited semi-truck. The truck was driven by David Welk. Welk apparently turned his big rig around and was searching the crash site with a flashlight when he spotted Bedford's body. He then left the scene and told a co-worker he'd only found a duffel bag and some clothes.
If that wasn't awful enough, investigators reported that Bedford's body appeared to have been run over several more times before it was found by the Montana Highway Patrol. One of those cars was driven by Wryan Young who then drove to the Super Car Wash to clean up her car, washing a "large portion of Bedford's face" onto the floor. Young then left the car wash.
Welk was later arrested and convicted for Bedford's death. He was given a six year suspended sentence in 2015. Young was arrested as well, however, the charges against her were dismissed.
Kriege is seeking damages for lost wages, negligence, and negligent infliction of emotional distress from CRST Expedited. She states that "finding 'a large recognizable part of a human face' traumatized her severely, necessitating 'intensive psychological counseling.'" She is also seeking damages for being investigated as a suspect. Kriege claims Welk was "obligated to call law enforcement to report the accident, but just 'left the body on the highway, knowing that someone could be held responsible for the hit and run death.'"
Attorneys for CRST Expedited refuted their client's liability contending that the "company is not responsible for any of the damages."" Instead they place the blame on Bedford, who they claim was negligent for walking along the highway at night and Young was negligent for leaving the scene and then attempting to conceal evidence.
It will be interesting to see the outcome of this case. Finding a face would clearly create intense emotional distress for anyone. In order to recover Kriege must show that CRST Expedited was negligent and that negligence caused her distress. However, there could be some issues in proving causation as there were intervening negligent actions - namely the subsequent cars who battered Bedford's body. In order to find for Kriege, the court will need to find that there was a causal link between Welk's actions and Kriege's subsequent gruesome discovery and that the link was not broken by the actions of any of the hit-and-run drivers. If such a link is established then Kriege may be able to recover for her traumatic experience.