Earlier this month, a state appellate court released an opinion in a Florida truck accident case, discussing several issues that commonly arise in cases filed against trucking companies. The appeal arose after a plaintiff suffered injuries when a tire from a trailer became detached and hit the car in which she was a passenger. The plaintiff filed a lawsuit against various parties, including the trucking company and the automotive company that installed the tire. The victim dropped all parties from the claim except the trucking company, alleging that the trucking company owed her a “non-delegable” duty to ensure that their trailer was safe. She argued that this duty included inspecting, maintaining, and repairing the trailer. The woman appealed after the lower court found in favor of the trucking company, holding that the trucking company was not liable for the mechanic’s faulty work.
Under Florida law, parties who hire independent contractors to do work for them may still be liable for injuries when a non-delegable duty is at issue. Challenges frequently arise in these cases because there is no specific definition or criteria for when a duty is delegable. Typically, Florida courts have found that a property owner’s duty of care toward invitees is non-delegable. In contrast, Florida courts have held that a hospital owed no non-delegable duty to a patient after a negligent independent contractor physician caused the patient injuries in the hospital’s emergency room.
In this case, the woman argued that the trucking company should have inspected the mechanic’s work. The trucking company countered that they regularly utilize the mechanic and that it is unrealistic to ask their drivers to engage in lengthy and intensive inspections that they are not trained to do. The woman relied on various Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, which state that motor carriers must inspect all motor vehicles subject to their control. However, the court found that the trucking company did engage in appropriate inspections, and additional checks of the trailer were not necessary. The court, in this case, refrained from imposing blanket liability on trucking companies based on faulty repairs.