There was a day – not too long ago, either – that one could count on owners of “commercial” vehicles to stand good for damages caused by the negligence of the drivers of those vehicles. Today, the lines are a bit fuzzier.
We see them everywhere these days: Cars wrapped in vinyl that advertises this beer, or that internet service provider, or, as in this case, the other cell phone company. These vehicles are meant to be used as a marketing tool to raise public awareness. The problem with these vehicles is that some of the people driving them are not anybody’s employees, but independent contractors whose insurance coverage may or may not cover all the contingencies.
A motorcycling couple was riding their bike one day in Atlanta when a vehicle, wrapped in advertising vinyl, crashed into them while it was making an illegal U-turn. Naturally, the injured couple would imagine that, like any other situation in which a vehicle is being used for business, that the employer would be liable for damages.
They sued the company whose advertising the car carried for damages. The law holds employers liable for their employees and their vehicles under the principles of ‘respondeat superior.” (When translated, this term means “let the master answer.”) They also claimed damages under the law that covers negligent entrustment.
The questions of whether or not the driver of the rental “advertisement” car was an employee of the advertising company or simply an independent contractor were not easily answered in this case. The language of the law that covers these situations is somewhat ambivalent in light of the way some contracts are implemented.
The defendant advertising company did not dispute that the driver of the car in question made an illegal U-turn, struck the plaintiffs, knocked them to the pavement and injured them. However they argued that the driver in question was an independent contractor for whom they could not be held responsible.
The trial court granted the defendant’s motion for Summary Judgment, dismissing the case.
The injured plaintiffs appealed the judgment and, after review the appellate court overturned the trial court’s judgment in part, and upheld it in part.
Because the plaintiffs did not argue the point of negligent entrustment in their appeal, the court upheld this portion of the trial court’s judgment. But, after review of the way in which the defendant driver was supervised during the “advertising event” the court held that a jury was needed to rule on whether or not she was actually “independent.”
This gave the plaintiffs the opportunity to place their case before a jury whose deliberations would ultimately decide the matter.
These days, if you are planning to take a personal injury matter to court, it is especially important for you to go into the courtroom properly prepared. Having an experienced, well-seasoned personal injury lawyer to represent you is critically important if you hope to prevail.
At The Millar Law Firm our goal is to successfully represent every worthy case we can in court. We’re committed to justice. On the other hand, why go to court if your case cannot meet the requirements of the law? It’s an expensive undertaking, especially if the court might eventually throw it out. You need an educated advisor you can trust to talk straight.
That’s why we provide a free case evaluation. We will review the facts of your matter, and then help you to determine how to proceed. We will help you find the justice to which you are entitled. Call us today.