Strategies, Challenges, and Answers

Two Important Trucking Law Lessons From One Old Supreme Court Opinion

One of our goals at Nevada Trucking Law is to write a blog post regarding every reported Nevada appellate case, past and present, that involves a commercial truck or heavy equipment.  The case considered in this post is Arrowhead Freight Lines, Ltd. v. White, 71 Nev. 257, 287 P.2d 718 (1955).  So you might be asking, what can we learn from a legal opinion that is over 50 years old?  I think that there are several good lessons that we can take away from this opinion.  First, the facts.

Rebar accident-1 The case arises from a personal injury that happened when a flatbed trailer carrying steel reinforcing rods was being unloaded at a job site.  The contractor who was receiving the load claimed that he had hired a crane to lift the steel off of the trailer.  But when the time came to unload, the crane was nowhere to be found.

The driver, the contractor and a few of the contractor’s employees came up with an unconventional plan to unload the rebar.  Rather than unbundle the steel and lift it off one piece at a time, they decided to drag it off a bundle at a time.  They tied a cable to either end of the rebar and looped the cable around the hitch on the contractor’s truck.  This system worked just fine the first few times.  But as they were pulling the second to the last bundle, the steel in that bundle caught on the steel in last bundle remaining on the truck.  One end of the rebar bundle came off the truck before the other end, causing the steel to whip around and hit the Plaintiff who was an employee of the contractor, causing the injury to the employee.  Now for the lessons.

The first trucking law lesson to be learned is advice to the driver: don’t involve yourself in the loading or unloading of the truck unless you are contractually obliged to do so.  This is a great way to avoid getting caught up in situations like these.

The case was ultimately tried and the jury found that the driver and the trucking company were not responsible for the injuries of the contractor’s employee.  Unhappy with that result, the injured worker filed a Motion for New Trial and the trial judge granted that motion.  The trucking company and the driver appealed the trial judge’s decision that granted a new trial.  The Nevada Supreme Court would not overrule the decision of the trial judge, so the case went back to the trial court to be tried a second time.

In the end, I don’t know if the parties settled or if the case was retried and if it was retried, what was the outcome.  But what I do know is the second trucking law lesson learned:  where a trial is involved, the final outcome can be very unpredictable.  I think that this is particularly true in Nevada, because of a dearth of appellate court decisions to guide the judges.  So take these two lessons to heart, as you make decisions on how to unload steel rebar and whether to try a case.

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