Under Maryland law, the employer of an independent contractor generally is not liable for damages caused by the actions of the independent contractor. However, there are a number of exceptions to the rule. For example, employers may be held liable in instances in which the employer was negligent in selecting, instructing, or supervising the contractor, the work was inherently dangerous, or the employer had a non-delegable duty.
The non-delegable duty exception means that an employer is not absolved of certain responsibilities even if the employer hires an independent contractor. In these situations, an employer is still free to delegate those responsibilities—but the law views such duties as being so important that the employer is still on the hook for improperly carrying out these duties or for failing to carry them out. There are a number of duties that courts have found are non-delegable duties. For example, duties imposed by statute, such as following building code provisions, are often non-delegable duties for building owners.
An appeals court in one state recently decided a truck accident case in which the court found that the employer did not have a non-delegable duty despite alleged violations of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. In that case, the plaintiff filed a lawsuit against a company after a tire from one of its trailers detached and crashed into a vehicle in which the plaintiff was a passenger. She claimed that a mechanic failed to properly repair the trailer in the month before the crash, and that the defendant had a non-delegable duty to inspect, repair, maintain, and operate the trailer in a safe condition. She argued that the defendant knew or should have known that the repairs were not properly done.
After a trial, a jury found that the mechanic was 77 percent at fault and that the defendant was 23 percent at fault. The jury found that the plaintiff’s damages amounted to $521,984.39. The trial court then amended the final judgment, deciding that the jury’s finding of a non-delegable duty was not supported by the law, and reduced the award to $115,541.12.
The appeals court agreed with the trial court’s decision. It found that the federal regulations did not impose a non-delegable duty upon employers. It reasoned that if that were true, an employer could be held liable for a faulty repair by a third party as soon as the vehicle left the repair center. The court noted that the employer in this case did bear some responsibility for failing to check that the repairs were made correctly, but it was not for this reason that the jury held the employer partially at fault.
Have You Been Hurt in a Truck Accident?
If you have been hurt in a Maryland truck accident, contact a skilled injury attorney as soon as possible. You have a limited amount of time to file a claim, and evidence can disappear if you wait too long. The truck accident lawyers at Lebowitz & Mzhen, Personal Injury Lawyers can assess your claim and guide you through the legal process. We will review your options with you and work with all involved parties to try to resolve your claim as appropriately and as swiftly as possible. Call us at 800-654-1949 or contact us online for a free consultation.