California Court of Appeal Affirms Summary Judgment in Favor of Trucking Defendants
On September 29, 2008, the California Court of Civil Appeals affirmed summary judgment in favor of MSP Trucking, Manohar Purewal, and Amrik Bagri (collectively "the trucking defendants") in a wrongful death action seeking recovery for damages arising out of the death of Renee Caraska ("decedent") in a traffic accident. Plaintiffs were Ms. Caraska's minor children through their guardian ad litem, Jennifer Moss.
The subject accident occurred when decedent, driving eastbound in the number four lane of Interstate 80 in Solano County, approached and rear-ended the tractor-trailer operated by Amrik Bagri ("Bagri") at freeway speed. The tractor-trailer operated by Bagri was already stopped and waiting in traffic at that lane in order to enter the Cordelia truck scale facility. Decedent died as a result of her injuries.
In the trial court action Plaintiffs sued Bagri alleging negligent operation of the tractor trailer, and Manohar Purewal, and his company MSP Trucking for vicarious liability as the owners of the tractor trailer. Plaintiffs' action also named as defendants the State of California, the California Department of Transportation for creating a dangerous condition on the highway because the weigh station was placed in a dangerous position being that there were only two lanes that led into the weigh station. Plaintiff also sued the California Highway Patrol for posting a sign that negligently directed motorists operating tractor trailers to decrease their speed to five miles per hour when utilizing the fourth lane to enter the weigh station. The trial court granted trucking defendants' summary judgment motion and judgment was entered.
On appeal, Plaintiffs alleged causes of action against the trucking defendants for negligence, negligent hiring, and negligence per se. The Court of Appeal rejected Plaintiff's negligence per se argument and held Bagri was required by law to stop for the scales facility and that he was legally permitted to pause in the number four lane when traffic ahead of him had stopped. Moreover, the Court held that no reasonable trier of fact could conclude that Bagri negligently caused decedent's death because, even though the lead driver, he was lawfully waiting behind highway traffic and was plainly visible to following vehicles with other lanes of traffic available to them. Additionally, the Court noted that it would be impractical for a driver waiting in traffic is required to engage hazards, brake lights, or a turn signal to warn drivers following behind. Finally, the appellate justices agreed with the trucking defendants reasoning that they were not they were entitled to summary judgment as to negligent hiring and supervision since Bagri did not commit a negligent act.
The Burnham Brown team defending this matter included Paul D. Caleo and Andrew R. Shalauta. Messrs. Caleo and Shalauta continue to defend transportation companies in catastrophic and large loss property accidents and regulatory compliance matters. Mr. Caleo can be reached at (510) 835-6809 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Mr. Shalauta can be reached at (510) 835-6716 and email@example.com.