Dealership negligently secured cargo and fatally distracted truck driver

Due to its size, a negligently operated truck can cause terrible devastation and death. Clearly, if a truck driver is negligent-for example, is driving while high on marijuana and injures or kills others-then that driver may be both criminally and civilly liable for those actions.

However, what if that same driver, just before the accident, was distracted by poorly secured cargo in the back of the truck? In such a situation, could the parties who secured the cargo also be liable for the trucking accident? The California Court of Appeal case of Pedeferri v. Seidner Enterprises answered this question.

Rattling dirt bikes distract a truck driver

The truck driver, just 90 minutes before the accident, had left a motorsports dealership, where the dealership's employees had loaded and strapped down two dirt bikes in the bed of the truck.

As the truck diver drove at 74 mph on a bumpy portion of the northbound 101 Freeway, he felt and saw the bikes hopping around in the bed of the truck, moving from side to side, as well as back and forth. The truck driver then heard a popping sound. Without braking, the driver took his eyes off the road to glance back. As he did, he steered his truck slightly to the right and onto the side of the freeway, colliding with a California Highway patrol officer and the vehicle of a young man pulled to the side of the road. The young man's vehicle exploded in a fireball, killing him. The impact threw the officer 78 feet from where he was standing, and paralyzed him from the armpits down.

The officer and the young man's family members sued several parties, including the dealership, for negligence and wrongful death. The jury found the dealership, along with the driver, negligent and awarded $49.6 million to the victims. The dealership appealed, arguing that their sole duty was to load and secure cargo so it would not fall out.

Was the accident foreseeable?

The Court of Appeal noted that a driver can be distracted by negligently loaded or secured cargo even when it remains in the vehicle. It was foreseeable that cargo negligently loaded or secured could distract the truck driver in a variety of ways-by making noise, blocking the driver's view, interfering with his or her control of the vehicle, or falling out. It was further foreseeable that a driver so distracted could cause personal injuries to others on or near the roadway.

The dealership owed a duty of care to the victims who were on or near the roadway and the victims were injured as a result of the dealership's negligence in loading and securing the cargo in the truck in a way that distracted the vehicle's driver. Accordingly, the trial court did not err in denying the dealership's motion to overturn the verdict on this ground.

All responsible parties should be held accountable

If you or a loved one are injured or killed due to the negligence of a truck driver, it is important that all parties that may have had a hand in that driver's negligence be held accountable for their actions. As in the case above, it may be that other parties, in addition to the driver, are partially responsible for your injuries and loss. Seek an experienced personal injury attorney who will thoroughly investigate your claim and take any steps necessary to ensure you receive all the compensation you deserve.