California Court of Appeal

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Vargas v. FMI, Inc., B246660

In this case, plaintiff was injured when he was in the sleeper berth of his tractor-trailer and the tractor-trailer rolled over while his partner was driving. Plaintiff sued the motor carrier, trailer owner, tractor owner, driver, and principal of the tractor owner for negligence. Summary judgment in favor of defendants FMI and Eves, concluding as a matter of law that neither was vicariously liable for the driver’s alleged negligence, is reversed, where: 1) Privette v. Superior Court does not apply to cases in which the basis for vicarious liability is alleged to be a franchise granted by public authority, as here with regard to a federal motor carrier's license; 2) 49 U.S.C. section 14102 requires motor carriers using leased vehicles to "have control of and be responsible for" such vehicles in order to protect the public from the tortious conduct of frequently judgment-proof truck lessor operators; and 3) defendants have not established as a matter of undisputed fact that the tractor's owner is entitled to the protection of the Graves Amendment (49 U.S.C. section 30106(a)), which shields owners of leased vehicles engaged in then business or trade of renting or leasing motor vehicles from vicarious liability for the alleged negligence of their lessee's drivers.

Appellate Information

  • Decided 01/23/2015
  • Published 01/23/2015


  • Edmon


  • California Court of Appeal