Summary Judgment in Favor of Trucking Company

Candace Kelley v. Garvin Fowler and Relwof Farms Trucking, Inc., et al.
State Court of Worth County
Civil Action Number: ST-08CV148
Summary Judgment Granted on August 12, 2011

The Plaintiff was injured in an automobile collision with a pick-up truck owned by Defendant Fowler and operated by his farmhand. The Plaintiff alleged that the driver of the pick-up truck failed to yield the right of way at a stop sign and that she suffered serious leg injuries as a result of the collision.

Defendant Fowler owned and operated a cotton farm and was also the president and sole shareholder of a trucking company that hauled peanuts, fertilizer, vegetable boxes, and military equipment. In an attempt to recover under both businesses' insurance policies, the Plaintiff sued the farm and the trucking company. Levy Pruett Cullen defended the case on behalf of the trucking company, the deeper pocket of the two.

There was only one full-time employee of the farm, a man whose primary responsibilities included driving tractors, harrowing land, planting it, and harvesting. In 2007, in order to earn extra money, the farmhand also began working for the Defendant’s trucking company. The farmhand was not a driver for the trucking company. Instead, he performed minor servicing of the trucks, such as changing tires. 

On the day of the accident, the farmhand worked for the farm the entire day. Nevertheless, the Plaintiff argued that both the farm and the trucking company should be held liable for her injuries. The Plaintiff contended that the fact that the farmhand was paid by the trucking company on the day of the accident demonstrated that he was acting within the scope of his employment with the trucking company on the date and time of the accident. Second, the Plaintiff argued that regardless of the respondeat superior issue (when a party is responsible for acts of their agents), the Plaintiff could recover against the trucking company under a theory of reverse piercing of the corporate veil (the theory that a corporation can be held liable for the acts of the individual owner). 

The trucking company, represented by Levy Pruett Cullen, filed a Motion for Summary Judgment on the grounds that the Plaintiff failed to show that the driver was acting within the scope of his employment with the trucking company at the time of the accident and that there was no basis for piercing the corporate veil. The Court agreed and granted summary judgment in favor of the trucking company on August 12, 2011.