Court Parses Out Liability in Multi-Defendant Truck Accident Case

One state supreme court recently released an opinion regarding a trucking accident in which multiple parties were alleged to be responsible for the injuries sustained by the plaintiff. The opinion is important to New Mexico trucking accidents victims because the situation is one that commonly arises in trucking accidents.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff and defendant were co-drivers and were employed by a private trucking company that was hired to haul a FedEx trailer. The defendant was provided training by co-driving trucks with experienced drivers. For the first few months, he was paired with one driver and then was paired with the plaintiff.

On the day of the accident, it started to snow as the defendant’s shift started. For safety reasons, he pulled over onto the side of the road for a short period of time, but when he attempted to start the truck, it would not move. The defendant then decided to wake the plaintiff up because he needed assistance getting the truck to move.

The plaintiff then got prepared to get out in the snow and figure out why the truck was not moving. As the plaintiff attempted to dislodge the truck from the snow, another commercial truck rear-ended their truck and injured the plaintiff. The plaintiff continued the rest of their trip, and when he finished his trip, he applied for and received workers’ compensation and medical disability benefits for his injuries.

Procedural History

Approximately two years following the accident, the plaintiff filed a claim against the driver of the truck that rear-ended them – in addition to several parties associated with that driver. The plaintiff also filed a lawsuit against FedEx, arguing that they were directly negligent and vicariously liable for the co-driver’s (defendant’s) negligence. He argued that FedEx was vicariously liable for the co-driver’s negligence, and he argued that the co-driver was careless and negligent in his behaviors that immediately preceded the accident.

FedEx’s Response

FedEx stipulated that if the vehicle was negligently operated, they would agree to be responsible for the negligence. However, the company then moved for summary judgment, arguing, among other theories, that there were no facts to indicate that the co-driver or FedEx had breached any duty of care that was owed to the plaintiff. The district court granted FedEx’s summary judgment motion.

The Co-Driver’s Response

The co-driver filed for summary judgment, arguing that he was immune from the lawsuit because the plaintiff received workers’ compensation. The plaintiff responded, however, that the co-driver’s conduct was willful and wanton, removing it from the workers’ compensation exclusive-remedy provision. The district court granted the co-driver’s motion for summary judgment.

The Appellate Decision

The plaintiff appealed the matter to the state’s supreme court, and they found that the lower court correctly held that the plaintiff could not allege both vicarious liability and direct liability for negligence. However, they did reverse the summary judgment against FedEx, finding that there is still a genuine issue as to whether a duty was breached.

Have You Been Injured in a New Mexico Truck Accident?

If you or a loved one has been injured in a New Mexico truck accident, you should contact one of the dedicated attorneys at the Fine Law Firm. Trucking accidents often include several parties with varying levels of liabilities. These cases can be particularly hard to navigate because there are many factors in play, including workers’ compensation availability, vicarious liability, and insurance issues. An attorney at the Fine Law Firm can assist you in parsing out the responsible parties and what your rights and remedies are. If you are successful, you may be entitled to monetary compensation for the injuries you sustained. Contact one of the attorneys at the Fine Law Firm at 800-640-6590 to schedule your free initial consultation.

More Blog Posts:

New Mexico Employees’ Rights and Remedies When Injured by a Third Party While at Work, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, January 25, 2018.

Truck Safety Regulation Overhaul Results in Truck Drivers Protest, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, January 4, 2018.