Judge Holds Company Liable for Affiliate in Trucking Accident Case
Plaintiff Michael Stratton lost his wife in a trucking accident in 2009, when a truck driver caused a crash on the New York Turnpike because he was watching pornography while driving. The truck driver is currently in jail on second-degree manslaughter charges.
However, Stratton also took the truck company to court for the trucking accident case, alleging that the company had liability for the behavior of its employees. Initially, Western District Magistrate Judge H. Kenneth Schroeder held to the Graves Amendment, a 9-year-old law that protects rental car and trucking companies from liability in the event of an accident involving one of their affiliates.
Now, in what is called a landmark decision for New York State, the Hon. Rchard Arcara ruled that the trucking company should be held vicariously liable for negligence in the trucking accident. Attorneys for Stratton said that many trucking companies around the country have reorganized themselves to take advantage of their release from liability in the event of a trucking accident. The Graves Amendment holds that contracts in which the trucking company and the truck driver are affiliated only through an “arms-length” contract, then the owning company is not liable for the truck driver’s negligence, as long as the owner was not negligent.
Judge Arcara argued that trucking companies are often bound to their drivers by more than just a lease agreement on the truck. The plaintiff’s attorneys argued that the trucking company should be financially liable, such as in a civil suit, for damage caused by the truck operator, if the operator is using the vehicle with the owner’s permission – as in the case of contracts between drivers and trucking companies.
“In this case, the (parent company) had total control. It was all the same company, the same family, the same people running it,” said Francis Letro, one of the attorneys for Stratton.
“This is far different from the situation in which Great River finds itself,” Arcara wrote. “There is no suggestion that Great River is constrained in the same manner as rental and leasing companies that hold themselves out to the general public.”
Trucking Accidents Can Cause Serious Injury and Wrongful Death
Many times truck drivers cannot see in certain blind spots around their large 18 wheeler. You will also find that many truck drivers do not follow the speed limits and rules of the road. They are pressured by deadlines and DOT regulations are often racing to get to their destination.
Tractor trailer accidents can also occur as the result of driver fatigue. Drivers may get distracted or even fall asleep at the wheel, leaving them unable to avoid a trucking accident. Injuries sustained in these types of accidents can be disabling. Accidents involving heavy commercial vehicles can cause:
- traumatic brain injury,
- severe disability, and
- even death.
The Strom Law Firm, LLC can help you if you have been injured in a trucking accident. With careful analysis and investigation we will look at critical factors including:
- maintenance and equipment records for the truck;
- whether the truck load was appropriate, properly sized and within the weight limit;
- Weather, road, and grade conditions;
- whether the driver was operating within DOT regulations.
If you or a loved one has been such a victim, contact the Strom Law Firm, LLC trucking accident lawyers. Whether you were injured in a bus accident, tractor trailer accident, or any other commercial vehicle accident, we can help.