Severe injuries caused by an independent contractor is costing the contingent workforce buyer millions after a jury ruled the buyer shared part of the blame.
A Pennsylvania jury last Thursday returned a verdict against an independent contractor truck driver and freight broker JB Hunt Transport Inc., ruling the broker must pay $6.2 million after the independent contractor severely injured pedestrian Isaac Espinoza in 2013, according to court records and media reports. The total verdict was for $15.6 million, with the independent contractor, driver Ricky Hatfield, required to pay the remaining 60%.
“Had JB Hunt performed even the most cursory background check, it would have discovered Hatfield’s terrible driving history that included a prior DUI while operating a tractor-trailer, a prior reckless driving charge, and a discharge from employment with a trucking company for failing a drug and alcohol [test] during which he attempted to bribe the person who was administering the test to him,” plaintiff attorney Alan Feldman said in a blog post. “Had JB Hunt been aware of this appalling record, they admitted Hatfield never would have been permitted to haul cargo for their customers.”
JB Hunt entered into an “outsourced carriage agreement” with Hatfield without conducting a background check, according to the post. Hatfield was separately convicted of DUI in the wake of the incident; Espinoza suffered severe injuries and will require constant care for the rest of his life.
In the collision, Hatfield crossed onto the shoulder of Interstate 81 in Franklin County, Pa., striking a car and two pedestrians, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administraion. Hatfield then collided with a dump truck and his tractor-trailer overturned across Interstate 81’s two northbound lanes. Hatfield fled the scene, but later was found hiding behind a nearby building. The following year, the administration ruled Hatfield was an imminent hazard to public safety.
Hatfield had also been convicted in 2009 of driving under the influence in Utah and he had also attempted to flee from the scene at that time, according to the administration.
While the buyer in this case was found not to have done an adequate background check, the issue of background checks is complicated. For more, see Fiona Coombe’s CWS 3.0 article on the background check process. Coombe is director of legal and regulatory research at Staffing Industry Analysts.