In a significant case handled by Snyder Law, LLP, a California Court of Appeal concluded this week in a written, published opinion that the FMCSRs (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations) do not apply to the process of unloading, where the transit is complete and unloading is occurring on private property. The court reasoned that the primary purpose of the FMCSRs is to prevent accidents and injury to the public on the highway. The case can be found here.
In this case, the plaintiff driver was an owner-operator working for Landstar. During the process of unloading large, empty propane tanks at an AmeriGas yard, he was severely injured when a number of the tanks fell from his stepdeck trailer after straps securing the load had been removed. An untrained AmeriGas employee was using a spyder forklift to remove the tanks and apparently bumped the trailer or the load.
Plaintiff sued AmeriGas and Landstar, ultimately settling with AmeriGas and dismissing Landstar. AmeriGas pursued a cross-complaint for indemnity/contribution against Landstar. In an earlier appeal in this matter, the same Court of Appeal held that the FMCSRs provide a right for an injured commercial driver to sue for his own injuries for an alleged violation of the FMCSRs. [AmeriGas Propane L.P. v. Landstar Ranger, Inc. (2010) 184 Cal.App.4th 981.] The case was remanded to the trial court and proceeded to trial with that holding. Barry Snyder and former associate, Adrian Lambie, tried the case to Judge John Pacheco over three days.
Although the trial court appreciated that, given the earlier record on appeal, AmeriGas had sufficiently alleged a claim for indemnity/contribution against Landstar for alleged violations of the FMCSRs by Landstar, it found no facts to support the allegation at trial. The trial court and then the Court of Appeal each concluded that the FMCSRs do not address and do not apply to unloading of cargo. This is a very significant case in the nationwide transportation industry.