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Ill. Appellate Court Upholds Liability Ruling Against C.H. Robinson for Fatal Accident

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4/15/2011 2:00:00 PM

By Dan Leone, Staff Reporter

This story appears in the April 18 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.

An Illinois appellate court has upheld a lower court’s ruling that freight forwarder C.H. Robinson Worldwide is liable for damages in a case stemming from a fatal truck accident in 2004.

In its decision, the appeals court agreed with the 2009 trial court’s findings that the driver “was an agent of [C.H. Robinson] at the time of the accident, making defendant vicariously liable for plaintiffs’ injuries.�

The appeals court issued its ruling March 30 and published its written opinion online April 4.

The case involves a load C.H. Robinson brokered to a now-defunct carrier, which in turn assigned the load to owner-operator DeAn Henry.

Henry and the carrier admitted liability in the 2009 trial in an Illinois court in Will County. A jury found that the carrier, the driver and C.H. Robinson were liable for $23.25 million in damages.

C.H. Robinson, in a regulatory disclosure, said that it would pay the first $5 million of the award, plus interest. The broker’s insurance provider would be responsible for the remainder of the jury award, according to the company’s April 6 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The payment will result in a charge to C.H. Robinson’s first-quarter earnings of about 2 cents a share after taxes, the company said in the filing.

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C.H. Robinson, Eden Prairie, Minn., maintains the driver was not its agent and that the company is therefore not liable for her negligence. The company told Transport Topics on April 12 that it will continue to purse legal recourse “through all available means.�

“The verdict has the effect of holding us vicariously liable for the damages caused by the admitted negligence of the motor carrier and its driver,� a C.H. Robinson spokeswoman said. “Our contract clearly defined the motor carrier as an independent contractor, and there were no claims that our selection or retention of the motor carrier was negligent.�

Attorneys for the plaintiffs did not immediately reply to requests for comment.

The case dates back to 2004, when Henry, the owner-operator, was involved in an accident on Interstate 55 in Illinois that killed two people and injured a third.

© 2010, Transport Topics Publishing Group. All rights reserved.


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