Vargas v. FMI, Inc.Annotate this Case
Vargas and Villalobos were driving a tractor-trailer across the country. Villalobos was driving and Vargas was in the sleeper berth when the tractor-trailer rolled over, injuring Vargas. Vargas sued FMI (the motor carrier and trailer owner), Eves (the tractor owner), and Villalobos for negligence. The trial court granted summary judgment for FMI and Eves, concluding as a matter of law that neither was vicariously liable for Villalobos’s alleged negligence. The court of appeal reversed. Federal law requires motor carriers using leased vehicles to “have control of and be responsible for” such vehicles (49 U.S.C. 14102) in order to “protect the public from the tortious conduct of the often judgment-proof truck lessor operators.” Defendants did not establish as a matter of undisputed fact that the tractor’s owner is entitled to the protection of the “Graves Amendment,” 49 U.S.C. 30106(a), which shields owners of leased vehicles “engaged in the business or trade of renting or leasing motor vehicles” from vicarious liability for the alleged negligence of their lessee’s drivers.