CASPER — The son of a Wyoming Department of Transportation employee killed by a street sweeper is suing the machine’s manufacturer, court records show.
Shirley Samuelson died in August when a street sweeper she had just parked on Highway 22 in Teton County rolled downhill and ran her over. She was 62.
The sweeper, made by Kansas-based SB Manufacturing Inc., was equipped with an emergency braking system. Samuelson had reportedly parked the sweeper she was using on a turnout on the highway, pulled the parking brake and turned the engine off before getting out to speak with a coworker.
While Samuelson’s back was turned, court filings state the sweeper started rolling downhill. It ran over her, then crossed both lanes of the highway before hitting a cliff face on the opposite side and stopping. Samuelson’s spine was fatally fractured and she sustained multiple injuries to her head and chest.
Now, her son, Gregory Horrocks, is representing her in a wrongful death lawsuit against the manufacturer. In a court filing, his legal team has called for the matter to be tried before a six-person jury.
The suit claims the machine, a 2009 broom sweeper, had defects that caused it to fail under “normal and foreseeable conditions.”
Horrocks filed the suit in U.S. District Court in late April. SB Manufacturing had not responded to the suit as of Tuesday, and has until next week to do so.
“Our heart goes out to the family of Shirley Samuelson,” said Kaden Canfield, one of the lawyers representing Horrocks. “Shirley was a delightful and strong Wyoming woman. She was also a beloved grandmother, mother, daughter and friend. We look forward to assisting her family in obtaining justice for their loss and her life that was needlessly taken.”
The suit seeks damages from the company, to be paid to several members of her family including her children, siblings, mother, aunt, niece and nephew.
Samuelson’s death, the suit states, led to a loss of support and income for her family, as well as other, less quantifiable losses including companionship, comfort and advice. It also cites funeral, medical and burial expenses related to her death.
A complaint filed on April 19 claims the sweeper’s manufacturer was negligent in inspecting, maintaining and repairing the vehicle while not catching the defective braking system or pulling it from their fleet. In particular, Horrocks’ legal team states in the complaint, the vehicle should have been equipped to operate and park on slight hills without incident.
The company “should have known” that the sweeper “would be used without inspection,” the suit claims.
A representative from SB Manufacturing declined to comment on the lawsuit Tuesday.
The accident occurred on Teton Pass just west of Coal Creek on Aug. 24, 2020. Samuelson was one of only six women operating heavy equipment in District 3, which spans Teton, Sublette, Uinta, Sweetwater and Lincoln counties, according to figures provided by WYDOT public information officer Stephanie Harsha.
Though Samuelson had told the Jackson Hole News&Guide in an interview the previous January that she was the only woman with Jackson WYDOT and the first ever on the maintenance crew, working on a male-dominated crew was just business as usual. Her work associates knew her to be family oriented.
“She took care of her family well,” Bruce Daigle, Samuelson’s supervisor on the maintenance crew, said in August. “She was just an all-around neat gal. ... She will be missed, that’s for sure.”
— The Jackson Hole News&Guide contributed to this article.