C.H. Robinson finally settles a court battle over its responsibility in a 2016 crash that left a man paralyzed, details a report from Transport Drive.
A Timeline of the C.H. Robinson Case:
- December 2016: A tractor-trailer crashes into a vehicle on a highway in Nevada, leaving motorist Allen Miller a quadriplegic.
- 2017: Miller files a lawsuit against the brokerage, C.H. Robinson Worldwide, claiming negligence in the crash. The case is filed in federal court.
- June 2018: Miller’s attorney proposes a settlement of $27.3 million, stating that Miller will require about $545,000 a year for life care costs.
- November 2018: A U.S. district court rules in favor of C.H. Robinson, stating that federal preemption of the Federal Aviation and Administration Authorization Act applies.
- But: 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals overturns the district court’s decision and finds that a safety exception to the federal law applies.
- June 2021: The U.S. Supreme Court denies C.H. Robinson’s request to hear the case.
Despite the company’s vocal pushback…
…which included an op-ed from President and CEO Bob Biesterfeld, the lower court’s ruling stands. According to their interpretation, C.H. Robinson can bear responsibility for the crash because of a safety exception in the Federal Aviation and Administration Authorization Act.
What does this decision mean for other brokerages?
Biesterfeld feels the FMCSA is shirking its responsibility to ensure safety among motor carriers since they set the industry standards. It could be that this decision opens the door for a lot more brokerages and shippers to be held liable for crashes at an unfair frequency.
On the other hand, Miller’s attorney says we don’t see many cases pursuing other brokers because “they’re not negligent. They do vet [carriers].” So, it could end up serving as a wake-up call to increase scrutiny when it comes to who brokers book business with.