A bus driver who did not have a commercial drivers’ license caused a horrific crash in southern Louisiana.
According to state troopers, 37-year-old Denis Yasmir Amaya Rodriguez, a Honduran national, was ferrying flood relief recovery workers in an inter-city bus when he failed to slow down for a fire truck and other first responders that had responded to the scene of an earlier accident. Mr. Rodriguez apparently rear-ended a disabled Toyota Camry, killing 21-year-old Jermaine Starr, of Moss Point, Miss., who was in the rear seat. The force of the bus crash collision propelled the Toyota into a fire truck. St. John the Baptist Parish Fire Chief Spencer Chauvin was thrown off an elevated portion of Interstate 10 and plunged to his death. Several dozen other individuals, including several firefighters and most of the tour bus passengers, were seriously injured.
Investigators are trying to determine the identity of the bus owner and/or Mr. Rodriguez’s employer. Police arrested him and charged him with a number of offenses, including two counts of negligent homicide.
Third Party Liability in Bus Crash Cases
Respondeat superior nearly always applies in these situations. To briefly recap, employers are liable for the damages that their negligent employees cause if they acted within the course and scope of employment.
But there is a difference between “always” and “nearly always.” Assume arguendo (for the sake of argument) that, in the above story, a bus company loaned Mr. Rodriguez the vehicle without any expectation of compensation. Or assume that he was moonlighting with company property in violation of company rules.
If the tortfeasor (negligent driver) was not an “employee,” negligent entrustment sometime applies. Under this theory, vehicle owners are responsible for damages if they loan their vehicles to people whom they:
Not having a drivers’ license, or not having the right type of drivers’ license, is essentially a presumption of incompetence. If the tortfeasor had a poor driving record or a facially valid and proper drivers’ license that was actually suspended or otherwise invalid, there must be evidence that the owner knew, or should have known, about the issue.
If the tortfeasor was not acting within the course and scope of employment, negligent hiring sometimes applies. For example, a home healthcare company may hire a person with a sexual assault conviction who subsequently attacks a patient. In 2014, Louisiana passed a law that sharply limits third party liability in these and other situations.
A number of third party liability theories may be available in bus crash cases. For a free consultation with an aggressive personal injury attorney in Lake Charles, contact Hoffoss Devall. Our firm has a small town atmosphere and access to nationwide resources.