Can Trucking Companies Delegate their Duty to Keep Trucks Safe?
A recent court opinion in Florida tackled a thorny issue that arises in many truck accident cases. The factual background is simple: a woman sued a trucking company after a tire on one of its trucks flew off and hit her vehicle. She suffered various injuries as a result.
The woman sued many parties but eventually dropped all of them except for the trucking company, which moved to dismiss the case. Its defense? The company claimed that they had hired an outside mechanic to install the tires and perform repair work on the truck, and that this mechanic’s negligence was actually responsible for the accident.
At trial, the injured victim won, and the jury apportioned responsibility between the trucking company and the company that installed the tires. However, the jury found that most of the responsibility lay with the outside mechanic—who was not a defendant in the case. The issue on appeal was whether the trucking company could delegate its duty to keep its trucks safe to another company.
The Court’s Analysis
On appeal, the court surveyed the law on when duties are nondelegable. Unfortunately, as the court noted, the law in Florida is very unclear. Generally, a business is not responsible for the negligence of an independent contractor. However, a nondelegable duty can sometimes be created by contract, common law, or statutory law.
The court looked at different situations that have arisen over the year involving this issue. For example, courts have found that a landowner cannot delegate a duty to keep property safe with respect to people invited onto the property (invitees). The same is true of a nursing home, which is ultimately responsible for the wellbeing of its residents. In other cases, by contrast, a business did not stay on the hook for the negligence of outside contractors.
The appellate court reviewed various federal guidelines but found that none of them supported the claim that a trucking company should be responsible for the negligently performed repairs of an outside facility. Instead, the regulations required that trucking companies perform certain inspections, which the defendant did in this case. For these reasons, the appellate court upheld the jury verdict.
Bringing Trucking Accident Cases
The above case is interesting because the injured victim did not sue the outside mechanic that installed the tires and repaired the damaged truck. Had she done so, she could have received compensation from them. In a sense, this is a problem of her own making.
The key in truck accident cases is to properly identify why the accident occurred and then sue all the defendants who could be responsible for the crash. These entities can include mechanics and other independent contractors who work on trucks.
At Earnhart Law, our Delray Beach truck accident attorneys pride ourselves on maximizing our clients’ ability to get the financial compensation they need after a truck accident. We will pursue claims against all relevant parties, including outside mechanics.
For help starting your case, give us a call at 561-265-2220. We offer a free, confidential consultation.