For example, the owner of the tractor and the owner of the trailer and the owner of the product being delivered are often all separate entities. Drivers too may be independent contractors or hired by the tractor owner through an agency. Each of these agreements among parties stipulates various insurance liabilities and responsibilities, and it can be very difficult for someone injured in a truck accident to determine which entities to hold to account.
All of this points to the bottom line that victims or survivors of victims of Florida truck accidents must contact a proven law firm as soon as possible after the crash. The sooner you contact a lawyer, the sooner an independent investigation can be held, and you can be advised of your rights and instructed on how to handle insurance settlement offers or denials.
In the recent case of Gonzalez v. Ramirez, is a case brought by a father who had lost his daughter and ex-wife in a car vs. truck accident in Texas that also resulted in the death of the truck driver. The reason he did not prevail on his claim of vicarious liability against the company that contracted with the carrier to deliver the goods the trucker was carrying was because of the chain of authority. Specifically, common-law theories of control over an independent contractor versus a joint enterprise were central to this case.
According to court records, defendant was the owner and sole proprietor of a farm. Defendant agreed to harvest the livestock feed from another farm and haul it to a supplier. In order to do this, defendant contracted with several companies to complete the transport. One of those included a carrier called Garcia Trucking. That company brought in several trucks for the job, one of which was driven by a new driver, last name Ramirez.
On the very first trip for Ramirez, the vehicle tire blew out and the driver lost control. He careened into oncoming traffic and into the path of a mother and her 14-year-old daughter. All three were killed.
The 14-year-old’s father and ex-husband of the mother filed a lawsuit against the farm owner, seeking to hold him negligent for overloading and negligent hiring and also vicariously liable for the negligence of the carrier and the driver, based on the carrier’s reported status a motor carrier under federal and state law.
Ramirez’s family asserted claims against both the farm owner and the carrier for negligence based on common law theories of retained control over an independent contractor (which the driver was) and joint enterprise. This family later settled out-of-court against the carrier.
Trial court severed the father’s claim against the truck company owner and awarded him more than $6 million in damages.
But the cases against the farm owner was still pending.
Farm owner then filed motions for summary judgement for non-evidence, and those motions were granted. Victims’ families appealed, and the appellate court reversed. But then the Texas Supreme Court weighed in, and reversed again.
The court decided the farm owner couldn’t be held liable as a motor carrier under state or federal laws, and there was not enough legally sufficient evidence to show he retained sufficient control over the truck to owe a common-law duty to the driver or to the family.
If you have been injured in an accident, contact the Hollander Law Firm at (888) 751-7770 for a free and confidential consultation. There is no fee unless we win.
Gonzalez v. Ramirez, May 8, 2015, Texas Supreme Court
More Blog Entries:
Florida Accident Victims Finally Get Settlement Money, May 7, 2015, Naples Truck Accident Lawyer Blog