Safety concerns raised in wake of Amazon crashes | Action News Investigation

Critics argue the business model shields Amazon from liability and leads to risky and negligent driving.

ByChad Pradelli and Cheryl Mettendorf WPVI logo
Wednesday, February 14, 2024
Safety concerns raised in wake of Amazon accidents | Investigation
Safety concerns raised in wake of Amazon accidents | Action News Investigation

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Amazon is facing increasing scrutiny for its driving safety record and liability related to accidents.

In December, a jury awarded a family $44 million in damages and expenses.

The verdict came just as the Action News Investigative Team was seeking answers into several accidents in the Philadelphia area. The accidents here were by delivery operators outsourced by Amazon -- called Delivery Service Partners or DSPs.

Critics argue the business model shields the corporate behemoth from liability and leads to risky and negligent driving.

Kathleen Mears is one of the accident victims now fighting back in the courts.

In October 2021, Mears was crossing the intersection of Synder Avenue and South Water Street in South Philadelphia when an Amazon van slammed into her on the crosswalk.

The impact sent her sprawling on the pavement.

"She was run down by an Amazon delivery driver who blew through a stop sign," said her attorney Brian Fritz.

Fritz said she suffered multiple fractures and injuries to her neck, back and legs.

They're now suing Amazon and the Delivery Service Partner that employed the driver, CJB Logistics, for damages.

"So he had an issue with regard to speeding and a careless and reckless driving in the past," said Fritz. "It would seem to me that you would want to eliminate people who have a track record of not being a safe driver."

Judith Bernbaum, who is not represented by Fritz, said an Amazon delivery driver ran over her beloved border collie, PJ, on November 18 last year.

"It was the worst experience I think I've ever had in my life," she said.

Bernbaum said PJ suffered fatal injuries and had to be put down after the family rushed him to the veterinarian.

Bernbaum told the Investigative Team that after hitting and dragging PJ across the driveway, the driver sped off.

"He opened the door, saw bleeding dog on the driveway, turned around and took off... I was screaming at him, 'Stop what's your name?'" she recalled.

Amazon told us its investigation concluded the driver was turning around in the family driveway at the time.

Bernbaum admits the dog darted in front of the Amazon van at night, but believes the driver was speeding based on the skid marks seen here.

The company said it's paying for all vet bills and the cost of a new dog.

"That still doesn't bring our dog back. It's very nice of them. It doesn't bring our dog back and it doesn't prevent it from happening again," she added.

An Amazon spokesperson called the incident a "terrible accident," but claims the driver sped off because Bernbaum yelled at him that he was trespassing and that she'd call police.

It's a claim Bernbaum denies.

"I was screaming at him, 'Stop, what's your name, look what you've done'...Closed the door. Gone."

The SPCA investigated the accident but declined charges due to conflicting statements between the driver and Bernbaum.

The Investigative Team also asked a spokesperson for Amazon for additional comment in regards to the lawsuit. It said in a statement it sympathizes with Mears, but due to legal proceedings, it had nothing else to share.

Her attorney said that not only does Amazon put undue pressure on its DSPs to make deliveries and meet deadlines, but the driver for CJB Logistics had a history of speeding and careless driving.

"Amazon is up to their eyeballs in creating the situation that's causing the injuries. If they want to have the DSPs, their delivery service providers along for the ride, that's fine with us, but they're not going to be excused from responsibility," said Fritz.

We reached CJB logistics in regards to the South Philadelphia accident. The company had no comment.