Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal
One night in July, Santiago Brito was walking along the road next to a Santa Fe Home Depot after getting something to eat at McDonald’s when he was struck by a forklift being driven by a store employee moving pallets from one area of the store to another, according to a lawsuit filed by his family.
Brito, who is in his early 70s and walks using a cane, fell to the ground and the employee reportedly drove the forklift over his leg, causing serious injury. His leg had to be amputated below the knee.
His sister, who was appointed his temporary guardian, has filed a lawsuit against Home Depot and employee Dawni Laughter, alleging negligence on the part of both parties. A complaint for personal injuries and damages was filed in the 1st Judicial District Court earlier this month.
It contends that Laughter was driving a forklift that was stacked so high with pallets that she couldn’t see in front of her and that she did so without any other employees assisting her. The forklift didn’t have mirrors or lights and the area was one where pedestrians were known to walk.
Furthermore, the company had a duty to screen, supervise, educate and train its employees on how to use a forklift and it did not do so in this case, the lawsuit alleges.
Attorney Rick Sandoval said this was a preventable accident and it’s not the first time employees or customers have been injured by forklifts at Home Depot stores across the country.
“It’s not just the fault of the operator, it’s the supervisors who had her doing that at night and it’s the company for not putting in adequate safeguards,” Sandoval said. “This is about corporate accountability, and responsibility when you know your business puts the public at risk.”
A spokesman for Home Depot said it wasn’t able to comment since the litigation is ongoing. The Journal could not reach Laughter for comment.
The lawsuit cited another case – this one out of Missouri in November 2021 – where a couple sued Home Depot after a forklift being driven by an employee without a spotter crushed the husband and pinned him against the truck.
“Home Depot had the resources to hire and sufficiently train its employees,” the complaint in the Santa Fe case states. “Fiscal 2021 was a record year for the Home Depot financially with over $150 billion in sales. This past year alone, Home Depot grew its sales by $19 billion and over a two-year period, they’ve realized over $40 billion of sales growth.”
As for Brito, his life has been forever changed.
“Every day is different for him from this point forward,” Sandoval said. “He is still in a rehabilitation hospital and he has a long, long recovery ahead.”