More than two years after a homeless woman was run over and killed by a garbage truck as she slept in a parking lot near downtown Eugene, her daughter has filed suit against the company that owned the truck and the Springfield man who was driving it.
Annette Montero died in the early morning hours of Aug. 26, 2019, as she lay in a sleeping bag next to an alley near 12th Avenue and Willamette Street when a Sanipac truck ran over her head, killing her instantly. The driver then continued his route.
Lorraine Baldi, Montero’s daughter, filed the wrongful death lawsuit as personal representative of her mother’s estate on Wednesday, March 2, in Lane County Circuit Court. It seeks up to $850,000 in economic and non-economic damages from defendants Sanipac Inc; Waste Connections U.S. Inc., a Texas corporation that owns Sanipac; and Todd Andrew Baker, the driver of the truck.
“What happened to my mom was horrific and preventable,” Baldi said in a statement. “This case is not just about getting justice for her, it is also for the unhoused community that remains largely ignored. Our hope is that this lawsuit results in positive change benefiting the often overlooked people in our society.”
Baldi’s lawyer, Scott Lucas, said the estate is suing Sanipac because of the company’s lack of cooperation following the accident.
“No one is claiming that Sanipac or its driver ran over Ms. Montero on purpose in the early morning hours of August 26,” he said in a statement to Eugene Weekly. “But Sanipac must be held accountable for Ms. Montero’s death, and for the harm caused to her family. Sanipac’s driver hit and killed Ms. Montero, then drove away without bothering to find out what he ran over.”
When Eugene police detectives tracked the driver down and asked to see the Sanipac truck that killed Montero, the statement continues, Sanipac said “no” and forced the police to get a search warrant. “Sanipac has stonewalled long enough in this case,” Lucas says, “and it is time for a jury to hold them accountable. That’s why Ms. Montero’s family is filing this lawsuit.”
The lawsuit lays out the most detailed account yet made public of what happened that night. The four-page complaint says Montero was sleeping in a bright red sleeping bag on top of a white tarp and should have been visible to the truck driver. It goes on to say the truck was pulling forward and turning right when a front tire ran over Montero’s head. It also notes the collision caused the truck to lurch hard enough to activate an on-board crash camera. At that point, the driver stopped and put the truck in reverse to turn on its back-up lights, apparently to illuminate what the truck had hit, the complaint says, before putting it in drive and leaving the parking lot.
Montero, who grew up in California, came to Eugene in 1982 to study at the University of Oregon, leaving after one term, as reported in a Sept. 12, 2019, EW story. She returned to California, where she married and had two children before a divorce amid growing signs of mental illness. Her family lost touch with her for several years before she reappeared in Eugene in 2019, often acting strangely and living on the streets.
On the day before she died, the EW story says, she ate breakfast at Eugene’s First Christian Church, which offers food and other services to the unhoused. “The few people who interacted with her — mainly church staff — say she was distant, and she almost seemed like she was in a trance,” the story says.
At the church, Montero was told to leave her bicycle outside, where it was stolen.
“Eugene’s unhoused population faces extremely difficult conditions,” Lucas’ statement says. Montero “was forced to choose between receiving food from a downtown food bank and staying with her bicycle, which was her only means of travel. When she went in to eat, her bicycle was stolen, and she was stranded downtown, where she was forced to find a place to sleep in an unfamiliar location. People should not be forced into choices like this.”
Sanipac management did not answer a request for comment on the suit. Baker, who has not been charged with any crime in the death that night, could not be reached for comment.