Our Miami tractor-trailer accident attorneys recognize that 80-pound fully loaded big-rigs can cause catastrophic injury and horrific carnage. Although intoxicated drivers pose a serious danger no matter what type of vehicle they drive, the prospect of a drunken truck driver is especially frightening. In this blog, we consider a case decided by the Florida 2nd Court of Appeals that considered whether to deny recovery to the victim of an alcohol-impaired truck driver because the plaintiff was alleged to have misled the court.
The 2nd DCA in Duarte v. Snap-On, Inc. considered the liability of a trucking company for injuries caused by their intoxicated driver. Several family members of the driver of the other vehicle, who were passengers in the car of the plaintiff, also were injured, but their cases settled. The injured car driver was involved in a second collision before the lawsuit involving the first collision proceeded to trial. The trucking company in the lawsuit arising out of the first accident defended based on the claim the plaintiff’s injuries were caused by the subsequent rear-end collision.
During the discovery process, the trucking company asked the plaintiff to provide information about the plaintiff’s involvement in any other motor vehicle accident. The defendants eventually characterized the plaintiff’s responses as misrepresentations. The trial judge granted the defendants motion to dismiss the lawsuit based on the grounds the plaintiff provided discovery responses that were dishonest and misleading. The plaintiff eventually provided details of the second accident and explained he struggled with English and his memory after the initial accident. The trial judge granted the defendants motion to dismiss the lawsuit.
While the 2nd DCA recognized that the trial judge is entitled to significant deference regarding sanctions imposed for a fraud perpetrated on the court, it noted that dismissal of the lawsuit is considered an extreme sanction only to be used as a last resort. The appellate court also pointed out that a party must establish a fraud upon the court by “clear and convincing” evidence to justify dismissal of a lawsuit. Although the 2nd DCA agreed that the representations of the plaintiff in discovery might lean toward a fraud upon the court under this standard, the evidence presented was far from sufficient to meet the standard appropriate for dismissal.
The court distinguished the case from prior decisions that dealt with whether the plaintiff had suffered “any” injury. In this case, the question of whether the plaintiff suffered an injury was not in dispute. The disagreement focused on allocating the extent to which each accident caused the injuries. If this defense has been successful, the plaintiff would have been denied all financial recovery despite experiencing intense injury because of a drunk truck driver.
Greenberg, Stone, & Urbano: Seeking Maximum Recovery for Trucking Accident Victims and Families
Trucking companies are required to administer random drug and alcohol tests, as well as administering tests after a crash. Commercial carriers also are required to conduct background checks on potential new hires. Liability can be imposed if a trucking company hires a driver with prior drug testing violations. Our Miami tractor-trailer injury attorneys at Greenberg, Stone & Urbano offer the assistance you need to pursue the results you desire. For over 130 collective years, our firm has assisted accident victims in personal injury and wrongful death actions across South Florida. We seek to obtain compensation for your tangible and intangible damages, including medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more. Our skill and dedication have earned us an AV rating from Martindale-Hubbell and recognition as one of South Florida’s top firms by the Miami Herald. Call us at (888) 499-9700 or (305) 595-2400 or visit our website to schedule your initial consultation.