Just ask Gonzo: U-Haul case picked up by Thomas Maag

By Steve Gonzalez | May 4, 2006

Reader: Last year you wrote about a man who was driving a U-haul truck from Florida to Illinois and was involved in an accident. He claimed that several components of the truck were defective.

Could you please update that case?

Jim Hemmer

Gonzo: David Sanders filed suit against U-Haul in Madison County Circuit Court on Aug. 4, 2005, claiming faulty mechanics caused him to wreck the rented truck.

Seeking damages in excess of $450,000, he claims the truck was unreasonably dangerous because its steering mechanism, drive train and U-joints failed.

He claims disabling injuries, pain and suffering, medical expenses and lost wages as a result of the accident.

Attorney Charles Chapman of counsel for the Lakin Law Firm in Wood River originally represented Sanders.

The case was removed to U.S. District Court by U-Haul on Sept. 26, 2005.

U-Haul, represented by Robert Ebert of Bryan Cave in St. Louis, removed the case claiming that the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000 and is between parties of different states.

On Oct. 21, 2005, Chapman filed a motion to withdraw from the case and asked District Judge David Herndon to give Sanders 120 days to find a new lawyer.

Five days later, U-Haul filed a motion to dismiss the suit.

Herndon took the matter under advisement and ruled on the motion Feb. 13.

In his order Herndon noted that Sanders in now acting pro se, because he was unable to find a lawyer to take his case within the 120 days given to him but gave him 15 days to file a response to the motion to dismiss.

Herndon also advised Sanders that if he failed to respond to the motion, the case would be dismissed.

On Feb. 23, Sanders filed a handwritten response stating, "My response to this motion is that I would like to continue this suite and represent myself."

He also writes, "U-Haul has destroyed valuable evidence in this matter, therefore I am having trouble finding another attorney to take my case."

Herndon wrote an order on Feb. 28, stating, "Obviously Sanders' response is not a proper response to the motion to dismiss as he did not address any of the defendants' arguments or cite case law."

Herndon noted that since he was acting pro se, he would give him another 15 days to properly respond to the motion using the local rules of the court and federal rules of procedure.

In another handwritten letter to Herndon, Sanders advised him that he had an appointment with an attorney who had dealt with U-Haul in the past and requested an additional 10 days time so the attorney may enter his appearance.

In the response Sanders wrote, "Sir, Channel 2 news has just done a report on U-Haul's practices, they had nothing good to report."

"This accident was not my fault," wrote Sanders. "It has crippled me for life and as a Marine Corps vet and as a U.S. Citizen, I feel I deserve a day in court to here the facts."

Herndon ordered that he would give Sanders the 10 days, but made it clear his patience waiting for a response was running thin.

Herndon writes, "While the court realizes Sanders is proceeding pro se, the court cannot allow this litigation to linger."

He noted that he has given Sanders ample time and he will dismiss the case if something is not done soon.

On March 23, Thomas Maag of Wendler and Ezra entered his appearance in the case and now the case is in the discovery phase. Herndon will hear the motion to dismiss later this month.

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