Petrillo & Goldberg Law Blog

Pennsylvania Turnpike truck accident triggers typical vicarious liability claim

Motor vehicle accidents involving two passenger vehicles or a vehicle and a pedestrian that result in personal injury usually focus on the potential liability of the driver who precipitated the accident. When a commercial vehicle is one of the parties, though, the question of liability often has a broader scope. And that is illustrated very vividly in a personal injury case that was filed in early November at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Janet Cleary of Norristown, PA, filed the lawsuit against Leonard Rizzolo. Cleary’s complaint alleges that on December 26, 2013, Rizzolo lost control of his tractor trailer and struck several cars on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. One of those cars hit Cleary, who was on foot. She suffered massive injuries. Cleary had exited the passenger side of her vehicle, which was involved in an unrelated accident, before she was caught up in the chain-reaction allegedly set off by Rizzolo’s truck.

According to the complaint, the collision inflicted significant skin, muscle and tissue damage as well as fractures to several bones. The accident left her severely scarred and disfigured. In addition, Cleary claims that, as a result of the collision, she suffers from post-traumatic anxiety, depression, mental anguish and ongoing humiliation. Cleary’s husband, Thomas Cleary, is also seeking relief for loss of consortium with his wife.

Cleary’s lawsuit blames Rizzolo for failing to maintain control of his vehicle, to apply his brakes in a timely manner, to operate the truck safely, to maintain an adequate lookout of his surrounding roadway conditions and to follow Pennsylvania’s motor vehicle laws.

The lawsuit, unsurprisingly, is also leveled at co-defendants L&L Transportation Co., Crestwood Midstream Partners, and Papco, LLC, who are Rizzolo’s employers and the owners of the truck. The co-defendants are accused of having hired a driver who allegedly did not have a proper understanding of how to operate their tractor trailer.

It stands to reason that Cleary’s lawsuit would encompass the employers of the truck driver and the vehicle’s owners under the principle known as respondeat superior, which is Latin for “let the master answer.” An employer is responsible for the most harm inflicted by their employee on another party while that employee was acting within the scope of his or her employment. Under such circumstances, the employer is said to have vicarious liability.

Whenever an individual, whether as a driver of a motor vehicle, a pedestrian or a bicyclist, is injured in an accident with a commercial vehicle, it is important for the injured party to seek experienced legal help from a law firm that specializes in collisions involving commercial vehicles. Such a law firm can properly assess and name the potential liable parties so that the victim can obtain maximum compensation for his or her injuries and associated pain and suffering.