Earlier this month, a federal appellate court issued an opinion in a case that began when a truck carrying a large piece of logging equipment got too close to the side of a bridge as it crossed. The logging equipment came free, ultimately crashing into a passing car. The specific issue in the case was whether the truck driver’s employer could be held liable in addition to the truck driver himself. The employer was responsible for traveling across the bridge in front of the truck to make sure that no oncoming motorists crossed at the same time the truck was crossing.
When the wife of the man who was killed in the accident filed a lawsuit against the truck driver and his employer, the truck driver admitted that he was negligent. However, the employer denied that he was legally responsible for the man’s death. The case went to trial, and the jury ultimately awarded the plaintiff a $3 million verdict.
The defendant appealed to the intermediate appellate court, arguing that he owed no duty to the motorist, and even if it was determined that there was a duty owed, he did not breach that duty. The court disagreed and affirmed the lower court’s verdict. The defendant appealed again.
The appellate court considered the testimony presented at trial. First, the court considered the testimony of a local sheriff who testified that it was common practice for drivers of large trucks, or their employers, to call him in advance of the crossing and arrange for him to officially close down the road. The truck driver also testified. Specifically, he told the court that it was his normal practice to have someone close down the road for him, but that individual was not always the sheriff. In fact, it was his preference to have someone else close down the road. This time, his employer planned to close down the road.
On the day in question, however, the accident victim had been allowed to enter the bridge despite the employer having “closed” it. As the motorist approached the middle of the bridge, the truck saw the motorist’s vehicle and tried to move over as much as possible to make room. However, there was insufficient space, the equipment on the back of the truck struck the side of the bridge, and the equipment came loose, crashing into the motorist’s car.
Ultimately, the court explained that there was enough evidence presented at trial for the jury to find that there was a duty of care owed by the employer to the passing motorist. As a result, the man’s wife will be entitled to the $3 million award.
Have You Been Injured in an Indiana Truck Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in any kind of Indiana truck accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation to help you recover the costs you incurred as a result of the accident. In some cases, a truck driver’s employer may also be liable. This generally is the case where the there was a failure to train the driver, or the truck driver was negligent while performing the duties for which he is employed. Alternatively, as was the case above, the employer may be independently liable. To learn more, contact a dedicated Indiana personal injury attorney at Parr Richey Obremskey Frandsen & Patterson at 888-765-7411 to set up a free consultation.
Court Upholds Jury’s Zero-Dollar Verdict in Personal Injury Case, Indiana Injury Lawyer Blog, March 9, 2016
Federal Court of Appeals Rejects Indiana Man’s Claim Against Equipment Company After Crane Accident, Indiana Injury Lawyer Blog, February 25, 2016