Handling Claims of Negligent Hiring and Training in Trucking
Your trucking company has been sued after your driver has an accident, and the plaintiff’s complaint alleges you should not have hired the driver. Perhaps the complaint alleges you did not properly train your driver or you should have terminated the driver before the accident. What should do you do?
Mississippi court decisions addressing these types of issues over the past few years can provide some degree of guidance. In general, as the employer of a company driver (or statutory employer if an owner-operator), your company is already responsible or liable for acts and omissions that your drivers commit while in the course and scope of their employment under the doctrine of vicarious liability.
Courts in Mississippi have rationalized that since the company is already liable for the acts of the drivers, then any additional “direct” claims of negligence asserted against the trucking company are unnecessary and should be dismissed. See Lee v. Harold David Story, Inc.; No. 3:09CV696TSL-MTP, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 81651, at *8 (S.D. Miss. July 24, 2011) (holding that prior cases consistently support the position that plaintiff’s claims of negligent hiring, retention, entrustment, and others against an employer should be dismissed once course and scope of employment is admitted).
One reason these decisions could be important in a case is because in the absence of a claim for punitive damages by the plaintiff, discovery into matters such as how you hired or trained the driver should be excluded. Our familiarity with these and similar issues allows us to focus on other matters present in a trucking case and to create an efficient plan of action all the way to trial.