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Motor Carrier Not Liable for Third Party’s Negligent Trailer Repair Work

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Does a transportation company have a duty to ensure that its tractor trailers are properly repaired when a third party does the repairing?  Last December, the District Court of Appeals of Florida, First District, considered this question. In Le v. Colonial Freight Systems, the court found a transportation company’s need to have repair work done on its equipment did not impose on it a “nondelegable duty” – a duty that it cannot pass along, transfer, or “delegate – regarding the repair work.

What Happened in Le v. Colonial Freight Systems? 

The case of Le v. Colonial Freight Systems arose out of an accident that occurred in 2010. The plaintiff’s complaint, filed in 2012, alleged that she was injured when a tire from one of a transportation company’s trailers became detached and collided with a vehicle she was riding in (as a passenger). In addition to suing the transportation company, the plaintiff sued a company that had performed repairs on the trailer. In 2016, however, the plaintiff dropped the repair company from the lawsuit. The lawsuit continued against the transportation company.

The jury determined that the repair company was mostly responsible for the accident, based on a faulty repair. At first, the trial court found that the transportation company was responsible for the repair company’s work and entered a judgment against it for more than $500,000. Subsequently, however, the trial court determined that the portion of the damages for which the transportation company was responsible was a far lesser amount – approximately $115,000. The reason behind the lessening of the award amount was that the trial court found that the transportation company did not have a “nondelegable duty” regarding the repair work.

The trial court noted that:

  • the tractor trailer’s driver satisfied applicable trucking regulations regarding daily trip inspections
  • the transportation company had performed a required inspection in 2010 (when the accident occurred)
  • regulations allowed transportation companies to use qualified mechanics and inspectors
  • neither the transportation company nor its driver were required to take apart a tire wheel or hub during an inspection to confirm that a third party’s repairs were done properly

The District Court of Appeals of Florida, First District, agreed that the transportation company did not have a nondelegable duty to ensure that the trailer was properly repaired. The court disagreed with the plaintiff that, without such a duty, transportation companies would not perform necessary inspections, maintenance, and repairs. The court expressed confidence that motor carriers would assume these responsibilities based on the requirements of federal regulations, their potential liability for their own and/or their drivers’ negligence, and, in sum, their desire to stay in business.

Questions About Le v. Colonial Freight Systems?

If you have questions about the court’s decision in Le v. Colonial Freight Systems, or want to know more about the liability of transportation companies, tractor trailer drivers, or repair companies for auto accident injuries, contact a skilled Fort Pierce personal injury attorney serving St. Lucie & Martin County at Sholtes Law, PLLC.





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