Segal McCambridge Legal Blog

Posted By:
May 6, 2011

Illinois Appellate Court holds Third-Party logistics operator liable for driver’s negligence

From SMSM Attorney Misty Martin

On March 30, 2011, the Illinois Appellate Court issued a ruling upholding a jury's finding that a third-party logistics provider, CH Robinson, was responsible for a driver's negligent operation of a tractor-trailer. This case involved a serious accident: the driver of a tractor trailer failed to stop and avoid a traffic jam, ran over several vehicles, causing serious injuries to one person and the death of two others. The jury awarded plaintiffs $23,775,000. The issue on appeal concerned the liability of CH Robinson. CH Robinson is a third-party logistics provider, that is, it arranges transportation services for its clients, it does not actual provide any of the actual transportation. CH Robinson argued at trial that the driver was an independent contractor and, accordingly, CH Robinson should not be found liable. Both the trial court and appellate court disagreed. The appellate court found there were substantial facts indicating the existence of an agency relationship between the driver and CH Robinson and CH Robinson was properly held vicariously liable for the driver's negligence.

This is significant ruling in the industry and should cause concern to logistic providers and those companies that hire independent contract drivers (like shippers and manufacturers). Historically, these types of companies have been successfully in shielding themselves from liability based on the independent contractor relationship. However, in this recent case, the appellate court found the existence of an agency relationship despite contractual evidence that the parties intended the driver to be an independent contractor. Those in the third-party logistics industry, as well as shippers, manufacturers and their insurers, should be aware of this case and risk, particularly any requirements or governance over the drivers they hire to transport freight.

Sperl v. C.H. Robinson Worldwide, Inc., 2011 Ill. App. LEXIS 307 (Ill. App. 2011) can be found online here

Posted By:
January 5, 2011

Indiana Court of Appeals case involving underinsured motorist insurance and prejudgment interest

On December 30, 2010, the Indiana Court of Appeals determined that a claim against a party’s insurer for underinsured motorist benefits is a civil action arising out of tortious conduct, and that the party’s insurer can be required to pay prejudgment interest in excess of uninsured and/or underinsured motorist limits in an action brought by an insured for failure to pay uninsured and/or underinsured motorist coverage.  In doing so, the Indiana Court of Appeals allowed the award of prejudgment interest.

As stated in the opinion:

Appellant-Plaintiff, Kathy Inman was involved in a car accident in 2006. She settled with the driver of the other car‟s insurer for its $50,000 limit. Her insurer, State Farm, consented to the settlement. Shortly thereafter, Inman filed an amended complaint against State Farm seeking an additional $50,000, up to her $100,000 policy limit. After consenting to Inman‟s agreement with the other car driver‟s insurance company, State Farm argued that the other driver was not at fault in Inman‟s action.  State Farm ignored Inman‟s offer of settlement and proceeded to trial. After the jury returned a verdict in favor of Inman for $50,000, Inman requested prejudgment interest from the date she filed the amended complaint against State Farm.

Under these circumstances, where Inman was forced to file a lawsuit against her insurer after it previously consented to her settlement with another insurer, the trial court should have awarded her prejudgment interest.

State Farm did not challenge the amount of interest Inman requested, or the sufficiency of her settlement offer pursuant to Indiana Code section 34-51-4-6. State Farm‟s sole argument was that Inman was not entitled to prejudgment interest. The Court of Appeals determined that Inman was entitled to the interest and ordered the trial court to award her $3,616.44 plus $13.10 per day after April 12, 2010.

The opinion can be found here

Posted By:
May 17, 2010

Some interesting links on the Toyota litigation

From The AmLaw Litigation Daily

“The Winners Circle: Judge Appoints 22 Plaintiffs Lawyers in Toyota MDL”
“Leading the personal injury/wrongful death committee are Elizabeth Cabraser of Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein and Mark Robinson Jr. of Robinson, Calcagnie & Robinson. (Cabraser was one of the three plaintiffs lawyers Judge Selna appointed as temporary lead counsel in April.) Also on the committee are Lewis Eidson of Colson Hicks Eidson; W. Mark Lanier of The Lanier Law Firm; Richard McCune of McCune & Wright; W. Daniel "Dee" Miles of Beasley Allen; Brian Panish of Panish Shea & Boyle; Hunter Shkolnik of Rheingold, Valet, Rheingold, Shkolnick & McCartney; and Donald Slavik of Habush, Habush & Rottier.

The economic loss committee is headed by three lawyers: Steven Berman of Hagens Berman; Marc Seltzer of Susman Godfrey; and Frank Pitre of Cotchett, Pitre & McCartney. Berman and Seltzer, both of whom had been appointed temporary lead counsel by Judge Selna, are in charge of consumer class actions; Pitre will oversee non-consumer cases. Richard Arsenault of Neblett Beard & Arsenault and Jerome Ringler of Ringler Kearney Alvarez are also on the non-consumer team. Benjamin Bailey of Bailey & Glasser; Stanley Chesley of Waite, Schneider, Bayless & Chesley; Jayne Conroy of Hanly Conroy Bierstein Sheridan Fisher & Hayes; and Michael Louis Kelly of Kirtland & Packer round out the consumer leadership.

But that’s not all. Judge Selna also appointed a liaison committee to state and other federal cases: Wylie Aitken of Aitken Aitken Cohn; Dawn Barrios of Barrios Kingsdorf & Casteix; and Gretchen Nelson of Kreindler & Kreindler. Finally, he named Monica Kelly of Ribbeck Law as a consultant to both the personal injury and economic loss committees on foreign law issues”

The Court order making these appointments is here

“Waxman takes Toyota to task for defending itself”
The article has the time honored maxim that “They laughed at Galileo. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.”
The article can be found here