Fatal crash suit: Landus hired ‘known unfit driver’
By JARED STRONG
A man who was contracted by Landus Cooperative to haul grain — and who caused a crash in 2017 that killed a Paton farmer — was a known heroin addict whom the cooperative did not properly vet, the farmer’s family claims in a lawsuit.
Troy Michael Shaw, 27, of Harcourt, was driving a semitrailer for Landus near Paton on June 6, 2017, when he struck the rear of a tractor driven by Pat Fields, 47, a local farmer, about 11:20 a.m.
The collision caused Fields’ tractor to overturn, and he died.
Shaw was not injured. Inside his truck investigators found a burnt spoon, a pop can cut in half and cotton balls, all of which tested positive for heroin, according to court records.
Shaw “was known and rumored in the community, including by his parents and Landus employees, to be a heroin addict, heroin dealer, and a heroin drug runner to and from Chicago,” the lawsuit alleges. “Had Landus performed minimal diligence or inquiry into Troy Shaw’s fitness and experience driving commercial vehicles, Landus would have discovered that Troy Shaw was an unfit and reckless driver who should not have been behind the wheel of a commercial vehicle.”
The lawsuit alleges that Landus hired independent haulers that it paid per load — to save money — and directly employed a smaller number of drivers that were paid by the hour.
The lawsuit says the directly employed drivers were subject to “comprehensive and stringent” safety policies that included extensive background checks. It claims the independent haulers were not subject to those policies.
“Pat’s death is a tragedy for his wife, daughters, family, friends and surrounding communities,” said Alicia Heun, a Landus spokeswoman. “Our lawyer has asked that we not comment at this time as we’re preparing for the summer court date. At trial, we look forward to strongly defending our business and, in turn, our farmer-members across Iowa against these claims.”
A jury trial is set for June 11.
The lawsuit says Landus overlooked the following potential warning signs about Shaw when it contracted with Shaw’s family trucking company:
• Shaw was in drug treatment for more than a year prior to driving for Landus.
• He took pictures and videos of himself while driving for Landus and posted them online.
• He “had appeared at a Landus location one year prior (to the crash) appearing shaky and on drugs, and made Landus’ employees fearful for their safety.”
• He did not have an up-to-date medical certificate as required by law.
• He had not been recently screened for drugs as required by law.
Shaw pleaded guilty to two misdemeanors and two traffic citations in November that stemmed from the crash, court records show. They were for drug and paraphernalia possession and failure to stop in an assured, clear distance.
He was sentenced to up to 90 days in jail.