Tuong Vi Le v. Colonial Freight Systems, Case No. 1D18-39 (Fla. 1st DCA Dec. 4, 2019)
This case arises out of accident wherein a tire from one of Colonial Freight Systems’s (“Appellee”) trailers detached and collided with the vehicle in which Appellant Tuong Vi Le was a passenger. Appellant asserts that Appellee owed her a nondelegable duty to inspect, maintain, repair, and operate the trailer in a safe condition. Further, Appellee knew or should have known that TA Operations (repair facility) did not do a proper inspection and repair of the damaged parts.
The jury found that there was negligence on the part of Appellee, however, that TA’s negligence was the legal cause of loss, injury, or damage. Appellant appealed the final judgment.
The First District Court of Appeal held that Appellee did not have a nondelegable duty. Explaining that the driver complied with regulations and that Appellee performed its required periodic inspections in 2010. Appellant refers to multiple provisions of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. However, the Court reasoned that there is nothing in the regulatory provisions which imposes the non-delegable duty upon motor carriers. To read the provisions to impose a nondelegable duty would “create blanket liability for motor carriers whenever an accident occurs because of faulty repair.”
In conclusion, the Court noted that Appellant’s arguments wholly disregard the fact that the repair facilities can be held liable for negligence, as TA was held partly negligent here. To accept Appellant’s argument that Appellee should be held liable to TA’s negligence would essentially impose a theory of strict liability, and the Court declines that position.
The nondelegable duty rule is case specific in most instances as there is not a brightline rule regarding what does and what does not constitute a nondelegable duty. However, in instances where a company and its employees are proactively complying with the standards and regulations to operate in a safe condition, there can be no nondelegable duty imposed. Holding a company and/or its employees liable for the negligence of a third-party repair facility would create blanket liability for that company. There would be no incentive for those companies to stay in business as they would potentially be liable for any and all negligent acts no matter who breached their duty.