Tuesday, September 18, 2007


In the course of saving someone's life, Demetrio Nagtalon, 63, lost his.

In December 2006, Nagtalon rented a U-Haul truck. Upon discovering a faulty brake, he sought to have it replaced so he returned it to a U-Haul rental center in San Francisco.

Instead of replacing the truck, a customer representative, Bobby Johnson, tried to repair the brake himself although, reports would later say, he is not a trained mechanic. Johnson also didn't block the vehicle's wheels.

Without turning the engine of the vehicle off, Johnson depressed the parking brake, and then attempted to release the brake with his hand. The handle of the brake came off in his hand. Johnson tried unsuccessfully to reattach the handle, and then went to get a pair of pliers and then continued trying to repair the brake.

When the truck began moving, Nagtalon rushed forward and pushed Johnson away from harm. However, by saving Johnson, Nagtalon himself was pinned between the truck and a steel pillar. He suffered massive internal bleeding and a crushed pelvis.

The father of four and grandfather of 13 died two hours later at a hospital. In a police report, Johnson reportedly called Nagtalon "a hero."

But U-Haul doesn't seem to share Johnson's belief.

The Nagtalon family recently filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against U-Haul, the country's largest supplier of rental trucks and trailers.

In a report, U-Haul indicated that Nagtalon was to blame for his own death.

"The cause of this accident was Mr. Nagtalon's actions, which placed his safety at risk in a situation where his assistance was not required," lawyers for U-Haul and Johnson said in court documents, according to the the Los Angeles Times.

"They've already begun their cover-up," said the Nagtalons' attorney, Matt Kumin. The case is now in the discovery stage and their attempts to interview Johnson has been blocked, Kumin added.

"I think we have a very good case against U-Haul," Kumin said. "They've been putting money ahead of safety."

In June, the Los Angeles Times published a series documenting the safety problems with U-Haul trucks and trailers.

The truck that killed Nagtalon was 13 years old and had logged 180,000 miles and had been in the shop because of the same parking brake problem that he encountered.

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