California Appeals Court Reinstates Jury Verdict in Favor of Injured Motorcyclist

taxiWhenever someone injures you while that person is working, your legal options potentially expand, but so do the potential complexities of your case. In a matter of a motorcyclist hit by a taxi driver in West Hollywood recently decided by the courts, the motorcyclist was able to obtain a award of damages not only from the taxi driver but also from the taxi company that contracted with the driver. The Second Appellate District Court concluded that the taxi company’s control over the driver was substantial enough to make the driver an agent of the company and the company liable for the harm the driver caused to the motorcyclist.

The plaintiff in the case was driving through West Hollywood when a taxi, which had been traveling in the opposite direction from the motorcyclist, turned directly in front of the motorcyclist. The motorcyclist was unable to avoid a collision, and the vehicles crashed into each other.

When you are injured by a taxi driver, there are many elements to pursuing your recovery. Not only can you pursue the taxi driver, but also your case may allow you to state a claim against the taxi company. That’s what happened in this case. This taxi driver was an independent contractor, rather than an employee, of the company. Based upon that fact, the taxi company argued that the taxi driver was not an agent of the company, so it could not be liable for the negligence of the driver. The jury disagreed and entered a verdict for the motorcyclist, finding both the driver and the company liable and awarding damages.

The trial judge, however, issued a judgment notwithstanding the verdict that absolved the company of liability, concluding that the evidence the motorcyclist offered was insufficient to prove that the company exerted the necessary level of control to make the driver an agent.

The motorcyclist appealed, and the appeals court sided with him, upholding the jury’s original verdict that held both the driver and the company liable for the injured man’s damages. In cases like this motorcyclist’s, the issue of a company’s control is very important. When you are trying to obtain a verdict that finds an independent contractor to be an agent of a company (which would therefore possibly make the company vicariously liable for the acts of the agent), you need to show that the company had a certain level of control over the contractor. The more tightly the company controls the contractor, the more likely it is that the relationship is one in which the contractor is an agent.

The crux of the taxi company’s argument, which the trial judge accepted but the appeals court rejected, was that the motorcyclist’s evidence of company control over the driver shouldn’t be considered in assessing the company’s degree of control. The company argued that it shouldn’t count because the rules upon which the plaintiff based his argument were ones the company only implemented because public regulators or third-party requirements demanded them. The company’s argument, the appeals court concluded, could not succeed because accepting such an argument would go against public policy. It would, the court stated, actually discourage companies like taxi services from engaging in careful supervision of their businesses. In order “to protect the public from financially irresponsible contractors, and to strengthen safety regulations,” it was necessary to reject arguments like the taxi company’s and to uphold the jury verdict in favor of the motorcyclist.

When you are injured in an accident in which someone else is at fault, there can be many pieces to the puzzle of your case. Did someone else own the vehicle that hit you? Was the driver “on the job” when he hit you? Any of these and other factors may affect your case and your ability to recover the full amount of damages you deserve. To help you put together a strong case, you need experienced injury counsel fighting on your side. The skilled San Mateo motorcycle accident attorneys at the Law Offices of Galine, Frye & Fitting have represented injured people like you for many years and are here to discuss your case with you. To set up a free consultation with one of our experienced attorneys, contact us at 650-345-8484 or through our website.

More Blog Posts:

Injured Motorcyclist Recovers in Excess of $3 Million from “Inattentive” Driver in California Verdict, San Mateo Injury Lawyers Blog, published Oct. 20, 2016