Sizable Verdict Reaffirms Need for Due Diligence in Selecting Motor Carriers
A recent verdict entered against a transportation broker for negligent hiring should motivate companies to revisit their own company policies regarding the qualification and selection of motor carriers.
In 2012, an Oregon jury awarded several million dollars to the family of a man who was killed by a commercial motor vehicle. The verdict in the Linhart v. Heyl Logistics case is significant because it was entered against a transportation broker for negligent hiring, and it included punitive damages.
Industry insiders believe this is the first verdict in the country awarding punitive damages against a transportation broker for negligent hiring. It is one of the latest cases placing liability on a transportation broker for an accident involving a motor carrier with whom it has contracted.
However, trucking brokers need not think that an overhaul of their company policies is necessary to protect themselves from negligent hiring. This is because brokers will not get caught in the negligent hiring trap if they use due diligence when hiring motor carriers.
To illustrate a lack of due diligence, the broker in the Linhart case hired a motor coach carrier without checking into whether the carrier had insurance or other financial responsibility under Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR) Part 387. In addition, the carrier did not have Department of Transportation (DOT) operating authority, and the carrier’s operating authority had been revoked previously when the principals were business owners of a now-defunct motor carrier.
In fact, a truck driver for the carrier in the Linhart case was just ending a crystal methamphetamine high and falling asleep at the wheel when he struck Linhart.
Brokers have a duty to the motoring public to ensure that the motor carriers they hire have the basic qualifications required by the FMCSR.This includes keeping a complete file on each motor carrier they hire in order to establish that the broker cares about the quality of the motor carrier it is hiring.
With expertise in handling wrongful death cases, a truck accident attorney or any of the other attorneys at Starr Austen & Miller, LLC is available to help individuals involved in car, truck or semi-truck accidents.
Source: Article, “Linhart Verdict Reaffirms Imperative for Due Diligence in Selecting Motor Carriers,” by Joseph W. Pappalardo and Jeffrey D, Stupp, in Tort Source, a publication of the Tort Trial and Insurance Practice Section of the American Bar Association.