Earlier this year in a California appellate court, a plaintiff’s case was allowed to continue over objections from several defendants after the plaintiff was involved in a serious tractor-trailer accident. According to court documents, the plaintiff was riding in the sleeper cabin of the tractor-trailer when the driver got into an accident. The plaintiff suffered serious injuries as a result.
The plaintiff then sought financial damages from the driver of the truck, the truck’s owner, and the owner of the trailer that the truck was towing at the time.
At Trial Two Defendants Are Excused Based on a Lack of Vicarious Liability
The trial court accepted the argument of both the trucking company as well as the trailer owner that they should not be held vicariously liable for the actions of the truck driver. This was based largely on the fact that the actual driver of the truck was merely an independent contractor, rather than a benefited employee.
Vicarious liability is a legal doctrine personal injury plaintiffs can use to hold a company liable for a negligent employee’s actions. However, vicarious liability is heavily fact dependent and may not apply in all cases. Here, the trial court held that there was nothing to indicate that either the owner of the truck or the owner of the trailer did anything that should hold them vicariously liable for the negligence of the truck’s driver.
The court dismissed those two companies from the lawsuit and sent the proceeding forward in regard to the driver of the truck only. The plaintiff appealed.
In front of an appellate court, the plaintiff argued that the owners of the tractor and trailer had a “non-delegable” duty to safely operate the truck and trailer. The court’s opinion was a lengthy and complex one, but it boiled down to a simple idea. Unless these companies can be held liable by personal injury victims, there would likely be no avenue for recovery at all for them.
The Court explained that these companies that lease trucks to independent contracts should “have control of and be responsible for” such vehicles in order to “protect the public from the tortious conduct of the often judgment-proof truck lessor operators.” The Court ultimately reversed the decision of the lower court and reinstated both companies as defendants.
Have You Been Injured in a Maryland Truck Accident?
While this accident took place in California, the law that applied was federal law because the accident took place on an interstate highway. The same federal laws that applied in this case would also apply in a similar case in Maryland. Thus, if you have been injured in a truck accident, you may be entitled to monetary damages from the truck driver as well as any of the companies that own the truck or trailer. To learn more about recovering after a Maryland truck accident, call 410-654-3600 to set up a free consultation with a dedicated Maryland personal injury attorney today.
More Blog Posts:
Several Inmates and Correctional Officers Killed in Fatal Bus Accident, Maryland Trucking Accident Lawyer Blog, published January 20, 2014.
Williamsport Bicyclist Injured When Hit By Dump Truck, Maryland Trucking Accident Lawyer Blog, published October 10, 2014.