Congratulations to partner Jonathan Herbst, Esq., who, after eight years of litigation due to bankruptcies and sorted facts, prevailed on behalf of our client in the matter of Moss v. Stratus Enterprise, Inc. The plaintiff was seated in her stopped auto when it was “side-swiped” by a tractor-trailer resulting in closed head trauma, permanent brain damage and an alleged loss of earing capacity in excess of $400,000.00. The trailer was owned by Stratus, a local trash hauler, who hired owner-operators as haulers, Baldi Trucking Company’s driver operated the power unit. Baldi Trucking Co. ceased operations and neither a company representative, nor the driver, could be located for trial. Plaintiff sued Stratus contending they were vicariously liable alleging: Stratus had the right to control Baldi’s drivers; Stratus vetted Baldi drivers by DOT background checks and driver histories; Stratus’ staff accompanied Baldi drivers, on occasion, instructing them regarding hook up and disconnecting trailers, preparation of invoices and to confirm the operator was conforming to DOT regulations. The facts further revealed: Baldi submitted invoices to Stratus for each load delivered and was paid a lump sum per load; Baldi paid its own taxes; Baldi drivers were given directions on where to go by a Baldi dispatcher and the operators could start and end their day whenever they wanted.
The jury was instructed that the right to control, even if it was not exercised, was sufficient to subject Stratus to liability for the negligence of Baldi’s driver. After brief deliberations, the jury found in favor of Jonathan’s client, last week.