Earlier this month, an appellate court in Florida issued a written opinion in a truck accident case that was brought by the family of a woman who was killed when her vehicle was rear-ended by the defendant truck driver. The case required the court to determine whether the owner of the truck, who was not driving at the time but was present in the vehicle, should qualify for a limitation of liability under a state statute. Since the court found that the owner of the truck “loaned” the truck to the passenger, the owner was entitled to a limitation of his liability.
The plaintiffs’ daughter was driving on a divided highway behind the defendant truck driver. At some point, she attempted to pass the defendant. As she pulled back into her lane, she realized another vehicle in front of her was making a left turn. The plaintiffs’ daughter was able to stop in time, but the defendant truck driver was not able to stop his rig in time, and he collided with the back of the daughter’s vehicle, pushing it into oncoming traffic, where it collided head-on with another truck. The plaintiffs’ daughter was killed as a result of the collision, and her family filed this wrongful death lawsuit against the driver and the owner of the truck that rear-ended her.
The owner of the truck asked the court to limit his liability under a state statute that provides a maximum of $100,000 in liability in situations in which a vehicle owner loans out his vehicle to another person who negligently causes an accident. The truck’s owner explained that, while he was present in the truck, he had temporarily loaned the truck to the operator when he asked the operator to drive the truck while he took a nap in the back. The trial court found that the truck owner was in a joint venture with the truck’s driver and denied the owner’s request to limit his liability.