Family sues AVIS, says to blame for Renton man's death

SEATTLE — Tonight, Avis Car Rental is blamed for the death of the man who fell six stories off a lift.

The widow of a Renton man says the equipment was dangerous and the company should pay for this fatal fall.

He was so worried about the lift, he even took a picture of it.

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​This terrible accident happened inside this Avis Car Rental here on 5th Avenue in downtown Seattle.

It forever changed the lives of a woman and her two sons.

"I got a phone call from the hospital, from the doctor," said Sandra Kitzhaber, "that pronounced him dead."

That is how she got the worst possible news. Her husband, Chris, was dead, just two weeks after he started working as a service technician at this Avis Rental Car in downtown Seattle. 

She spoke from Oregon where she moved after he died.

She says he took this picture of the service lift he used several times a day, complaining that he didn't feel safe on it.

"But he didn't say why," she said.

"Do you know whether he told the people there that he didn't feel safe?" she was asked.

"I have no idea," she said. "I didn't ask him that. But it kind of makes sense to me that having been there such a short time, he probably hadn't said anything."

She says what she saw shocked her.

"Prior to seeing that picture," she said, "I had never heard of a manlift. I didn't know that such a thing existed in this country. "

Video of the kind of lift he used is online.

It shows a single person rides the lift, holding onto a metal handle. A rope is used to stop and start it.

"There were a whole constellation of issues that made it inherently unsafe," said Bryan Prince-Olsen, the family's Seattle attorney.

He says the belt manlift Kitzhaber was forced to use should have been retagged.

"What are those issues?" he was asked.

"Proper signage," he said, "safe landing zone for a safe place to board."

"Whatever I can do to bring notice to this so that other people don't get in this kind of situation, that's what I would like to see come out of this," said Sandra Kitzhaber.

The state fined Avis $7,800 for what were deemed three serious violations. The company is appealing.

Chris Kitzhaber actually worked for a subcontractor based in Kingston. That company was fined $4,000 and did not appeal.

The trial date for the lawsuit is set for next December.