In an interview published in the September/October edition of Corporate Counsel Business Journal, Richmond associate Ashley Winsky explained how to fend off claims by plaintiffs who use the federal safety regulations and company policies to turn simple negligence claims into professional malpractice cases against truck drivers.
“The plaintiffs’ argument is that operators of commercial motor vehicles have acquired special knowledge and skills,” said Winsky, a litigator and member of McGuireWoods’ transportation industry team. “They argue that these drivers go through training because they’re operating large, dangerous vehicles and should be held to a higher standard of care than other motorists. In actuality, state law governs all motorists equally. I have to use the same caution when approaching an intersection as the truck driver to my right.”
Plaintiffs’ counsel, Winsky added, also use commercial driver’s license manuals and a company’s own written materials in an effort to advance their argument. “Typically, a company’s internal standards exceed what the law requires. There’s no zero-tolerance law, but some companies may enforce zero-tolerance policies.”
Winsky also discussed how defense counsel can combat these tactics and described the stakes involved in these cases. “Application of the wrong standard of care could mean the difference between winning or losing a multimillion-dollar lawsuit,” she said.