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‘Negligent hiring’ claim stands

A Roanoke federal judge has refused to set aside a jury verdict that found a trucking company negligent for hiring an inexperienced driver for a hurry-up delivery of a “hot load.”

That verdict, handed down in early May, may be founded on new law in the big-dollar, big-rig field of tractor-trailer litigation.

On July 7, U.S. District Judge Glen Conrad denied defendant C.H. Robinson Worldwide’s motion for a new trial. Prior to trial, Conrad ruled that the motor carrier broker could be sued for “negligent hiring of an independent contractor.” The judge said in his June 10 decision that no Virginia case had applied the negligent hiring theory in the context of a broker’s selection of a carrier, but he predicted the Supreme Court of Virginia would extend the claim to the negligent hiring of an independent contractor in this tractor-trailer accident.

In his July 7 denial of post-trial motions in Jones v. C.H. Robinson Worldwide Inc., Conrad said that information available to the public should have tipped the defendant that the trucking company “had a propensity to hire incompetent, unsafe drivers,” and there was enough circumstantial evidence to show the driver’s erratic driving caused the wreck.

A bench trial on damages is set for July 21.

By Deborah Elkins

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