Massachusetts Court Discusses Negligence Claims Against Commercial Truck Drivers

In addition to the obligation to act with reasonable care imposed on most parties in Massachusetts, parties that own or operate commercial trucks must comply with the regulations set forth by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Thus, a person injured by a careless commercial truck driver may be able to assert general negligence claims as well as claims that the driver failed to comply with the FMCSA regulations. Recently, a Massachusetts court discussed the pleading standards imposed on a plaintiff pursuing claims arising out of the FMCSA in a case in which the plaintiff asserted a negligence cause of action against a truck driver. If you suffered injuries due to a commercial truck driver, you might be able to recover damages and should speak to a trusted Massachusetts personal injury attorney to assess what compensation you might be able to recover in a civil lawsuit.

Facts of the Case

It is alleged that an organization hired the defendant company to transport its products from Massachusetts to California. The defendant company subcontracted the job to another entity, who then hired the defendant driver to complete the task. When the defendant driver arrived at the facility in California, he parked his truck and trailer. The plaintiff, who was operating a forklift, entered the trailer when it abruptly dropped twelve inches. The plaintiff struck his head and sustained lasting and severe injuries.

It is reported that the plaintiff then filed a lawsuit setting forth negligence claims against the defendant driver and the defendant company. The defendant company filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that the plaintiff failed to set forth an adequate claim and that his claims were preempted by federal law.

Pleading Claims Under the FMCSA

The plaintiff’s claims against the defendant company alleged the defendant had a general duty to exercise care in selecting the subcontractor it employed as well as a duty to act in compliance with the FMCSA regulations. The court noted that the plaintiff failed to allege facts sufficient to demonstrate the harm caused by the failure to comply with the regulations as required by the relevant pleading standards, and the court dismissed the claims premised on those grounds. The court declined to dismiss the claims premised on the breach of a general duty of care, however.

With regard to the preemption of the claim, the court noted that the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act of 1994 (the FAAAA) preempts any state law with respect to transporting property, which includes arranging for the delivery or transfer of property. While the court found that the plaintiff’s negligence claim fell within the preemption of the FAAAA, laws that fell within a state’s safety regulations of motor vehicles were exempt from preemption. Additionally, because negligent hiring claims were part of the common law tort claims meant to fall under the exemption, the court found no preemption.

Speak with an Experienced Massachusetts Attorney

If you were hurt in an accident caused by a commercial truck driver, you might be able to pursue claims against both the driver and his or her employer and should meet with an attorney as soon as possible to discuss your potential claims. At the Law Office of James K. Meehan, our experienced Massachusetts personal injury attorneys are adept at helping injured parties recover compensation, and if you hire us, we will aggressively advocate in your favor. You can reach us at 508-822-6600 or via our online form to schedule a conference.