Sperl v. HenryAnnotate this Case
CHR, a logistics company, had a transportation contract with Jewel Food Stores. Henry, who owned a semi-tractor that she leased to Dragonfly, a federally licensed motor carrier, agreed to deliver potatoes to CHR’s Illinois, warehouse for shipment to Jewel stores. While delivering the potatoes, Henry was unable to stop her tractor-trailer ahead of stopped traffic and ran over several vehicles. Two people died and one was seriously injured. Henry admitted negligence and liability. Dragonfly admitted liability and a “united” negligence with Henry. CHR denied liability. The jury returned plaintiffs verdicts, specifically finding that Henry was CHR’s agent. CHR was, therefore, vicariously liable under the doctrine of respondeat superior. The jury awarded damages totaling $23,775,000, jointly and severally, against the three. CHR paid the judgments, including post-judgment interest, then filed an amended consolidated cross-claim for contribution against Dragonfly under the Contribution Act. (740 ILCS 100/2, 3). Both stipulated that Henry had no assets. CHR asserted that it had a right to contribution, even if Dragonfly’s liability was vicarious, because the parties would be equally liable in those circumstances but CHR paid the entire amount. The trial court entered judgment for CHR for contribution of $14,326,665.54. The Illinois Supreme Court agreed, rejecting CHR’s argument that it was entitled to a greater level of contribution based on a difference in relative culpability. Both were only vicariously liable for Henry’s negligent conduct. CHR is entitled to contribution from Dragonfly under the Contribution Act.