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Semi-Truck Owner Faces Oklahoma Trial Over Decision to Entrust Vehicle to Driver with Prior Accident History

Posted on April 2, 2019

When a car or truck accident is the result of employee negligence; the employer can be held responsible for damages under Oklahoma law.

This is commonly known as the legal doctrine of respondeat superior. However there are other ways in which an employer may also be liable. This depends on the particular facts and circumstances of a given accident. For example, on March 18, 2019, U.S. District Judge Robin J. Cauthron of the Western District of Oklahoma declined to dismiss a personal injury lawsuit against U.S. Xpress, Inc., based on allegations of “negligent entrustment.” This refers to a situation where the owner of a car or truck allows someone else to operate the vehicle even if they know–or reasonably should have known–that other driver was “careless, reckless, and incompetent.”

In this particular case, Andrea Annese suffered injuries when her Chevrolet Camaro collided with a semi-trailer owned by U.S. Xpress and operated by one of its drivers.

According to Annese’s subsequent personal injury lawsuit, the two vehicles were in adjacent lanes at a stoplight. Annese was in the inside turn lane and the semi-truck was in the outside lane. As both vehicles turned, the collision occurred. Annesse alleged the semi-truck driver “left the scene of the wreck without conferring with [her] or waiting for the police to arrive.”

Annese said U.S. Xpress was responsible under both respondeat superior and negligent entrustment.

With respect to the latter, she alleged that U.S. Xpress was negligent in its hiring, training, and supervision of the semi-truck driver. More specifically, she pointed to the driver’s accident history, which Judge Cauthron explained included “five preventable accidents over the preceding three years.” Based on this history, the judge denied a U.S. Xpress motion for summary judgment on Annese’s negligent entrustment claim, explaining there was “enough evidence in the record to support a jury finding” that the driver was careless and that U.S. Xpress “was aware of this” when it entrusted its truck to him.

According to Tulsa, OK truck accident lawyer Charles Bryan Alred,

“Semi-trucks can weigh upwards of 80,000 pounds when fully loaded. This makes them dangerous weapons in a collision with the typical passenger car. This means that trucking companies have a special responsibility to ensure they only hire and retain qualified drivers with good safety records. As the judge’s ruling the U.S. Xpress case illustrates, a trucking company that fails in this duty can be held responsible by a jury for significant damages.”

Contact Charles Bryan Alred today to discuss your case.