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Florida Courts May Exercise Jurisdiction Over Non-Florida Truck Drivers in Fatal Accident, Kitroser v. Hurt, 85 So. 3d 1084 (Fla. 2012)

Many truck accident cases in Florida involve commercial truck drivers that are from out-of-state. Florida law recognizes the corporate shield doctrine, which prevents defendants who act exclusively in a corporate capacity from being dragged into Florida state courts. However, as the case below illustrates, this doctrine is not an absolute bar from being held liable in a Florida court, depending upon the circumstances of the case.

In Kitroser v. Hurt, a woman was killed when an employee of a Missouri company negligently drove a commercial semi-truck and crashed into the woman’s car in Florida. The woman’s estate sued the foreign company, the driver, and additional employees who supervised or trained the driver. The trial court found that Florida law provided a basis for a Florida court to exercise jurisdiction over the company’s employees. However, on appeal, the district court of appeals reversed the trial court’s decision. The case made its way to the Florida Supreme Court.

The Florida Supreme Court found that the company’s employees committed negligent acts while they were present at the company’s facilities in Florida. The Court determined that the company’s employees were negligent in supervising, training, and retaining the driver by permitting him to continue to drive one of its trucks even after they had received information that he was not fit to drive. The employees were all either resident of Texas or Georgia during the accident, but they committed the negligent actions in Florida.

The employees had asked the trial court to dismiss the case against them because their allegedly negligent acts were committed on behalf of the company, and not for their personal benefit. Additionally, they were not residents of Florida. They invoked Florida’s corporate shield doctrine in support of the dismissal for lack of jurisdiction. Under this doctrine, individuals cannot be hauled into Florida state courts for acts performed on behalf of a foreign corporation.

However, the Court held that the employees, in this case, committed the alleged negligence in Florida. The Court stated that if they applied the corporate shield doctrine, in this case, it would provide immunity to corporate employees in Florida. Therefore, the Court held that the doctrine does not apply to people who commit negligent actions in Florida. According to the Court, holding otherwise would contradict the goals of having a law that allows courts to exercise jurisdiction over negligence committed in the state by residents of other states. Therefore, the corporate shield doctrine only applies to protect nonresident defendants who work outside of Florida, do not commit any acts in Florida, has no personal connections in Florida, from being hauled into Florida courts simply because they are corporate employees. Truck drivers who drive negligently in the state cannot escape liability for causing injuries in Florida through the corporate shield doctrine.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a truck accident because of a driver’s or trucking company’s negligence, the Miami personal injury lawyers at Greenberg, Stone & Urbano offer the assistance you need to obtain the results you desire.  With over 130 collective years of experience representing personal injury clients across South Florida, our firm provides legal representation of unmatched excellence.  Contact our firm as soon as possible to start on the road to protecting your legal rights.  Our firm received an AV rating from Martindale-Hubbell and was ranked as a top firm in South Florida by the Miami Herald.   Put our exceptional personal injury attorneys to work on your case.  Call us at (888) 499-9700 or (305) 595-2400 or you can visit our website to schedule your initial consultation.

 

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