Tennessee Court Discusses Vicarious Liability in Truck Accident Cases

When a person engaging in activities arising out of his or her employment causes a motor vehicle collision, not only may the person be held liable for any harm caused by the accident but in many cases, the person’s employer may be held liable as well. Recently, the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee discussed when an employer will be held liable for the negligence of an employee driver, in a case in which a tow truck driver struck an unconscious pedestrian. If you were injured in an accident with a truck driver, you should speak to a Tennessee truck accident attorney regarding what damages you may be able to recover.

Facts Regarding the Accident

Reportedly, the plaintiff’s decedent was assaulted at a convenience store, after which he was chased and struck in the head with a rock, rendering him unconscious in the left lane of a road. He was wearing camouflage. The defendant driver was driving a tow truck that was towing a police car. He turned into the left lane of the subject road at a speed slower than the posted speed limit. As he approached the decedent, another individual ran into the road to alert the defendant driver of the decedent’s presence. The defendant driver swerved to miss the individual and struck the decedent. The decedent ultimately died from his injuries. The plaintiff then filed a lawsuit against the defendant driver, his employer, and the County. A bench trial was held, during which the sole issue was whether the Defendant employer was liable for the purported negligence of the defendant driver.

Vicarious Liability Under Tennessee Law

The court stated that drivers have a duty to keep a lookout that an ordinary prudent person would keep in the same situation. Further, the duty to keep a lookout while driving is codified at Tenn. Code Ann. § 55-8-143.  The court noted, however, that merely because an accident occurs, it cannot be presumed that anyone acted negligently. Rather, the court explained that a person alleging negligence must show that the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care, but that the defendant’s conduct fell below the standard of care, which amounted to a breach. The plaintiff must also establish proximate cause.

In the subject case, the court stated that while the defendants owed a duty of care to the plaintiff, the plaintiff failed to establish that the defendants breached the duty of care or caused the plaintiff’s decedent’s harm. Specifically, the defendant driver maintained a proper lookout and was traveling at a reasonable speed. He was not distracted and had no reason to anticipate that a pedestrian would be lying in the roadway. Thus, the court held that the defendant driver did not cause the accident. As the defendant driver did not act negligently, the court found that the defendant employer, which was a government entity, was entitled to immunity. Thus, the court entered judgment in favor of the defendants.

Meet with a Truck Accident Attorney

If you suffered injuries in an accident with a truck, it is wise to speak with a seasoned attorney to discuss who may be liable for your harm. Attorney Eric Beasley is a capable Tennessee truck accident attorney who will work diligently to help you pursue any compensation you may be owed. You can contact Mr. Beasley through the form online or at 615-859-2223 to set up a complimentary and confidential meeting to discuss your potential claims.