MOTOR CARRIERS (TORTS & VICARIOUS LIABILITY) / Truck driver sues Wal-Mart for negligence for injuries she sustained when a stack of boxes fell on her as she was unloading a trailer full of merchandise at a Wal-Mart distribution center. Wal-Mart brings 3rd party complaint against motor carrier for negligence in training its employee-truck driver. Held: 3rd party complaint states a cause of action.

Salient fact: Boxes fell on truck driver when she opened the door of her truck – i.e., they fell on driver from within the truck trailer itself and not from elsewhere in the Wal-Mart facility.

Court construed 3rd party complaint as alleging acts or omissions on part of motor carrier independent and distinct from those of the truck driver herself.

Shelvey v. Wal-Mart Stores East, L.P., Slip copy, 2013 WL 489158 (U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, February 8, 2013). Free copy available hereContinue reading

REMARKS: MOTOR CARRIER & TORTS / “ ‘How-to’ primer on suing a truck carrier for negligence of its driver – especially where evidence that driver exceeded FMCSA hours of service regulations and where access to engine data about extent of usage during defined – here these claims ‘reached the jury’ ”.

From New Rules & Decisions week of November 26, 2012.

Davis v. Edwards Oil Co. of Lawrenceburg, Inc., 2012 WL 5954139 (N.D. Ala. November 28, 2012). Free copy available here.

Hours of service requirements present motor carrier risks from two threat vectors: (1) regulatory (FMCSA HOS rule), and (2) tort litigation. 

The years-long battle between FMCSA and litigants in various federal courts of appeals over the hours of service regulations manifest one obvious source of risk to motor carriers in regard to driver’s hours.

Litigation on this represents a threat from the same activity and management issue – driver’s hours – but one that comes from a distinct direction. 

Ed Regan of Tranzact Technologies made this point recently in his “Two Minute Warning” series, noting motor carrier management estimating loss of productivity percentage to the extent of 7 to 9 percent. Click for video blog box on this page.  

Legal and business factors combine to present three-fold constraint for management:

1. Regulatory – FMCSA enforcement of HOS rule;

2. Litigation – Tort lawsuit based on violation of HOS limits as negligence per se – with respondeat superior or other vicarious liability exposure for motor carrier; and

3. Productivity pressures from reduced available driver hours.