The California Court of Appeals addressed whether a motor carrier responsible for transporting goods across the country can be held liable for the negligence of an independent contractor driver.
The facts of this case center on an automobile accident involving a tractor-trailer. Mr. Villalobos was driving the tractor-trailer, and Mr. Vargas was in the sleeper berth when the vehicle rolled over, injuring Mr. Vargas. Mr. Vargas then filed a lawsuit against the motor carrier and trailer owner (FMI), the tractor owner (Eves Express, Inc.), and Mr. Villalobos. The trial court concluded that FMI and Eves were not vicariously liable for Mr. Villalobos’ alleged negligence.
Mr. Vargas appealed the trial court’s granting of summary judgment. He contends that FMI owed him a nondelegable duty of care, and they are vicariously liable for Mr. Villalobos’ negligence, and that Eves Express is also vicariously liable. In response, FMI argued that, since they hired independent contractors, they implicitly delegated to the independent contractor any tort law duty they may owe the contractor or the contractor’s employees to ensure workplace safety.