Family of man killed on belt-manlift settles wrongful death lawsuit

$5 Million Settlement against Avis Rent-A-Car System, LLC

GLP Attorneys has recently settled a wrongful death lawsuit for $5 million against Avis Rent-A-Car System, LLC, located in Seattle, Washington. Avis Rent-A-Car is a wholly-owned indirect subsidiary of Avis Budget Group, Inc., of Parsippany, New Jersey. The company operates a fleet of roughly 650,000 vehicles through company-operated and licensee-operated locations worldwide.

The lawsuit stated that Christopher Kitzhaber, a 48-year-old married father of three, was employed by Automated Machine Design, LLC (subcontractor to Avis) as a rental agent, responsible for moving and washing rental vehicles that were part of Avis Rent-A-Car System in the parking garage located at 1919 5th Ave. in Seattle, Washington. Shortly after arriving to work on July 31, 2016, Mr. Kitzhaber parked his car on the top floor of Avis’s six-story parking garage and walked to the belt-manlift that employees were to use to go up and down the garage. Mr. Kitzhaber then fell six stories down the manlift shaft, as the lift ran, squeezing him through some of the small openings in each floor. Mr. Kitzhaber was found at the basement level covered in blood, but alive and breathing. He died in the ambulance on the way to Harborview Hospital.

It was later learned that the manlift had multiple safety violations making it inherently dangerous and unfit for human transportation, including a vestibule and boarding platform that was too small for safe use, and a lack of signs explaining how to safely ride the lift. Avis was also unable to provide evidence of necessary maintenance of the manlift and Avis had no record of proper training for users of the manlift.

Scott Lundberg and James Gooding of GLP Attorneys indicated that their research revealed that there are very few belt manlifts in Washington, as the majority of lifts now have cages around them which would have prevented this death. Mr. Gooding said, “Avis did not do proper safety inspections of the manlift, and in fact declined to pay for an appropriate maintenance plan put in place when it was recommended by the maintenance company.”

Counsel for the Kitzhaber estate said, “No amount of money can adequately compensate the Kitzhaber family for the horrific pain and suffering their father and husband endured. However, our clients are pleased that this public settlement acknowledges for the first time the harms that Mr. Kitzhaber and his family suffered, and Avis’ responsibility for those harms”.

“It is our sincere hope that by establishing a public settlement, Mr. Kitzhaber’s case will bring to light the dangers that workers face, and show the rental car industry that it will be held responsible when profits are put over people. We are hopeful that the Kitzhaber family can begin the healing process and move beyond this tragedy.”

This is the step workers were expected to use when on the belt-manlift, while riding between floors of the Avis parking garage.

Exterior of the Avis parking garage in downtown Seattle.

Top floor of the Avis parking garage, showing the belt manlift and step workers were to use to move between 6 floors of the garage. A small handle on the belt was all that workers had to hold on to while on the moving machine.

 

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