The Court in Roquemore v. E.R. Express Explains the Distribution of Liability in North Carolina Truck Accident Cases

The transporting of large loads can be a multifaceted and very detailed process that involves several different parties. But if there is an accident caused by the recklessness of more than one of those parties, what happens?
If you have been injured in a Carolina truck accident, it is important to know who you can sue for damages. Our Charlotte injury attorneys understand that the process can be tough, but we want to help you identify the liable parties in your personal injury lawsuit.

Roquemore v. E.R. Express is case that exemplifies the legal intricacies surrounding trucking accidents. This case began where American Bridge Manufacturing (ABM) had an extremely large beam it needed to transport from Oregon to Michigan. ABM hired Sherman Brothers to arrange for the logistics of the transport, including obtaining the permits necessary and the driver. Sherman Brothers hired Trans/Mid-American to obtain these permits.

American Bridge loaded the beam onto the tractor trailer. And Karkhu, who was employed by E.R. Express, prepared to drive this E.R. Express tractor trailer to Michigan. ABM had reported the beam to be measured at 13 feet and nine inches; however, in reality it measured at 13 feet and ten and a half inches. Had these measurements been accurately reported by ABM to Sherman Brothers, and then to Trans-Mid-American, the permit for transport would have never been issued because there was an overpass on route that the truck would not have been able to clear.

Nickie Donald was traveling in a tractor trailer behind the truck Karkhu was driving, which carried the beam. Karkhu approached an overpass, and upon attempting to go under it, the beam smashed into the overpass. The impact of this caused the beam to dislodge from its reinforcements on the truck and the beam went flying back into the cabin of Donald’s truck. The weight of the beam was so great that it pinned Donald into the cabin until he bled to death. It was only through the use of a crane that Donald’s body was able to be recovered.

Donald’s estate was represented by Roquemore, who sued the four companies listed above. The main argument was that each of the four parties had been negligent and this negligence combined caused the death of Donald.

Because the actual truck that collided with the overpass was owned by E.R. Express, the other three companies argued that they could not be held liable. In support of this contention, these three defendants relied on Michigan state statute which they interpreted as stating that only the owner of a vehicle that collides with a lawfully established bridge can be held liable under common law negligence.

The initial court to hear this case agreed with the collective defendants and dismissed the plaintiff’s negligence claim against three of the four parties, only leaving E.R. Express as a liable party. Plaintiff appealed this decision leading to this circuit court case.

The final holding of this case illustrates the complexities involved in truck accidents. The court distinguished that where intervening and concurrent causes each contribute to an accident, the liability can be distributed among all of the negligent parties consistent with the amount of negligence each party is guilty of. It is common to see one party held liable in a truck accident because the other parties usually settle beforehand. Thus, there is no precedent that dictates that only one party can be held absolutely liable.

Therefore, this court found that each of the negligent parties can be parties to the litigation as long as they were in fact negligent and their negligence contributed to the plaintiff’s damages.

If you have been injured contact North Carolina injury attorneys at Lee Law Offices to schedule a free appointment today. Call 800-887-1965.

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