BARRE, VermontA Vermont automotive technician was arrested Aug. 11 for manslaughter following what an automotive trade group called a carelessly incomplete inspection.
The Alliance of Automotive Service Providers of New Jersey (AASP/NJ) sent out an urgent warning to its membership about the repair that led to the mechanic's arrest after a car crash that killed a woman.
In a press release, AASP/NJ Executive Director Charles Bryant reminded shops that when using compromised parts in a car due to Direct Repair agreements, the liability still remains with the repairerthe insurer's refusal to pay will not count as an excuse in a court of law.
According to Neptune, N.J.-based AASP/NJ, Steven Jalbert, 30, a central Vermont mechanic, was arrested and charged with man-slaughter and reckless endangerment for approving a state vehicle inspection on a defective car.
Mr. Jalbert pleaded not guilty. If convicted on all charges, the AASP/NJ said he could face up to 16 years in prison.
In May 2014, the technician had performed an incomplete inspection on a 1992 Chevrolet Corsica, allegedly leading to a woman's death two months later. The investigation uncovered that the brake lines and rocker panels in the vehicle were rusted and corroded, classifying them as being in visibly unsafe condition, the AASP/NJ said.
The Burlington Free Press reported on Aug. 11 that driver Donald Ibey, 86, of Barre Town said he was traveling down a steep section of Hill Street in Barre in the 22-year-old car when he heard a pop, a police report noted after the crash. The newspaper said that, according to court records, the sedan continued out of control and crashed, killing Elizabeth Ibey, 82, of Barre Town on July 5, 2014.
The Free Press said Mr. Jalbert is employed at his family's business, A.J.'s Sunocoan inspection facility licensed by the Vermont Department of Motor Vehiclesin Barre.
It also reported that an inspection sticker was issued May 9, 2014, although visibly unsafe conditions were showing, according to state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) records that indicated Mr. Ibey's car traveled only 383 miles from the time of the inspection until the crash. As part of its investigation, the DMV asked a forensic expert on motor vehicles to check the car.
The AASP/NJ told its members a police affidavit showed that the mechanic did not take basic steps in inspecting the carsuch as testing the brakes, putting the car on a lift, removing a wheel or testing it on the road.
Mr. Jalbert was using an out-of-date manual as reference, according to the AASP/NJ. The Free Press reported that the technician provided three voluntary sworn recorded statements that included several admissions about his failure to properly inspect Ibey's vehicle, a DMV officer told the newspaper.
That officer added in the Free Press story that the mechanic displayed no signs of remorse or concern over his involvement in the matters leading to the death of Mrs. Ibey.
The alliance said in the message to its members that the impact of this decision is being felt all along the Northeast as a reality check.
Mr. Bryant called it a wake-up call..., adding that it's one thing if you allowed a bad job to get out of your shop and were suedthere's insurance to cover things like thatbut to go to jail for doing a careless job is a whole different story.
So many shops try to do the right thing but are told by insurers that they won't properly reimburse them for what needs to be done. They say things like they will only pay for used suspension, which, in my opinion, is the worst thing that could be done!
Used suspension from a total loss (vehicle) should never be used; there could be internal damage that puts peoples' lives in jeopardy. We have to stand up and say no in cases like that.