Truck CollisionTrucking Litigation Update: Independent Contractor Truck Drivers are Employees

In recent decision by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeal the ruled that Affinity Logistics Corp. employed their independent contractor drivers where Affinity had the right to control the details of the dirvers’ work. The case is Ruiz v. Affinity Logistics Corp., 2014 DJDAR 7607.

In that case the drivers leased their trucks from Affinity to deliver products for the Sears Holding Company. The lawsuit originates from one of their drivers who sued for unpaid benefits. The plaintiff, Fernando Ruiz, argued that he and the other employees should have been treated as employees as it related to their benefits.

The lower court found that the plaintiff and the other drivers were considered independent contractors. Because the drivers could hire helpers and other drivers, the district court held that Affinity did not have the right to control the details of the drivers’ work.

Judge Harry A. Pregersen of the 9th Circuit Appellate Court reversed the lower court’s opinion fond that Affinity did control the details of their drivers’ work and were thus employees who could recover for their benefits as an employee.

This is great news for truck drivers and those who have been injured by truck drivers. The trucking industry has only leased to their drivers to minimize their costs and potential liability by relying on this independent contractor model where the drivers lease their trucks directly from the company. Trucking companies have been able to avoid paying full benefits to their drivers that the other employees can otherwise get.

This ruling helps protect other vehicle drives on the road. Normally, when any other employee injures another person on the road, the employer would also be held liable. The legal term for this is respondeat superior. This is what is called a Principal-Agent relationship. A principal, i.e. employer, is responsible to third persons, i.e. the injured person, for the negligence of their agent, i.e. employee, in the transaction of agency business, including wrongful acts committed by the agent in the operation of a motor vehicle.

When one of the drivers leasing a company truck, the trucking companies have been avoiding responsibility for the wrongful conduct of their drivers by asserting that their driver is an independent contractor or the employee of the independent contractor. That means that the company the driver was leasing from would not be liable for the negligence of that driver under the doctrine of respondeat superior.

Potentially, this new decision widens the scope of whether drivers that lease their trucks are actually employees of the company where they control the details of their work like any other employee. This can be very helpful to the public as trucking companies will have to take greater care in making sure that their drivers are responsible and following the law due to their own potential liability from bad hiring practices or letting drivers continue to be on the road that the company knows are a hazard on the road.

Faulkner Law Offices handles large vehicle and trucking cases. If you, or someone you know, has been injured by a large vehicle or truck, you need attorneys that are experienced in this area. These are not ordinary auto accident cases. It takes a lot of time, care, commitment and research to reach a successful verdict in trucking cases. It is critical that an investigation of the circumstances of the collision is done immediately by a qualified expert in the trucking industry. If you need our help, please call us at (661) 327-0601. Our main website is www. faulknerlaw.com. We are trucking lawyers in the Bakersfield and Kern County area. We have over 40 years of experience in handling personal injury cases.

The information and materials on this blog are provided for general informational purposes only and are not intended to be legal advice. The law changes frequently and varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Being general in nature, the information and materials provided may not apply to any specific factual and/or legal set of circumstances.  No attorney-client relationship is formed nor should any such relationship be implied. Nothing on this blog is intended to substitute for the advice of an attorney, especially an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction. If you require legal advice, please consult with a competent attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction. Past results are no guarantee of future results.