Illinois Legislature Passes Bill Allowing for Prejudgment Interest on Personal Injury Claims

Steven Ahillen

By Steven Ahillen



personal injuryIllinois law traditionally has not allowed for prejudgment interest on personal injury claims, but that rule is about to change. On January 13, 2021, the Illinois legislature passed House Bill 3360. The original purpose of the bill was to amend Illinois law relating to mortgage foreclosures and abandoned residential property. However, Senate Floor Amendment No. 1 modified the bill to introduce prejudgment interest for personal injury claims in Illinois.

Prejudgment interest on personal injury actions was not available under the common law, so generally it is only allowed when authorized by a statute. Illinois HB 3360 provides that in all actions for personal injury or wrongful death, the plaintiff shall recover prejudgment interest on all damages set forth in a subsequent judgment at the interest rate of 9% per annum.

Of note is when prejudgment interest begins to accrue under the bill. Among the jurisdictions allowing prejudgment interest on personal injury claims, a plethora of approaches has emerged for determining the starting point. Some states require the rejection of a formal demand with specific requirements (such as Missouri, § 408.040 RSMo.), others from the date of the loss (such as Florida, Fla. Stat. § 687.01), or still others from the date of the filing of the complaint (such as Michigan, Mich. Comp. Laws § 600.6013). Continue reading »

COVID-19 Vaccines and the Workforce – Mandatory or Encouraged?

Ruth Binger

By Ruth Binger



covid-19 vaccineGetting back to normal in the next year or so may be impossible without the widespread use of COVID-19 vaccines. Although authorities do not anticipate the vaccines will be widely available until Spring 2021, employers should be considering whether to mandate or merely encourage vaccinations in the workforce.

Currently there is no definitive answer regarding mandatory vaccinations, and your plan will depend on many variables. Because this is the first pandemic in our memory and it is all new to us, consider forming a committee to monitor the status of laws, regulations, and guidance from various agencies.

Your business may be one of the lucky ones that navigated the pandemic without causing a loss of morale or culture, operating safely by working remotely, social distancing, wearing masks, and following CDC requirements. If so, setting aside all other factors, you may simply want to encourage vaccinations for the first few months that they are available, especially given potential concerns about the safety and efficacy of the vaccines and the ever-changing laws. You could do this by training and educating employees as to the efficacy of the vaccine, encouraging participation, and offering the vaccine for free (if not covered by insurance) at the workplace during work hours. Continue reading »

FMCSA’s New Rules Offer Improved Flexibility to Commercial Motor Vehicle Drivers

Steven Ahillen

By Steven Ahillen



truckingFor years, commercial drivers and transportation companies have urged the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to provide greater flexibility in the hours of service (HOS) regulations. This call grew even louder following the implementation of the electronic logging device (ELD) mandate. This summer, FMCSA finally announced revisions to the hours of service regulations. The new rules went into effect on September 29, 2020.

The FMCSA’s rule changes affect four areas: the short-haul exception; the adverse driving conditions exception; the 30-minute break requirement; and the sleeper berth provision. Additionally, although it is not a formal rule change, the FMCSA issued new guidance regarding personal conveyances. These updates will help provide flexibility to an industry that often grapples with rigid regulations that have failed to keep pace with reality.

Short Haul Exemption

The short-haul exemption applies to drivers who report at the same location at the start and end of each workday and operate in a limited area. These drivers can keep a time record in place of the more burdensome HOS log. FMCSA’s new rule increases the geographic restriction from 100 air-miles to 150 air-miles. This change will allow motor carriers utilizing this exemption to expand their range, and some drivers whose regular routes previously prevented them from taking advantage of the exemption now can do so. Further, the on-duty limit for short haul operations has increased from 12 hours to 14 hours. Continue reading »

The Trucking Industry is on the Road to Clarity for Driver Classification Issues

Katherine M. Flett

By Katherine M. Flett



trucking

The trucking industry has commonly used the owner-operator model for interstate commerce.  Whether individual state labor laws, which typically require labor protections such as minimum wage, sick leave, and unemployment and workers’ compensation benefits, apply to truck drivers generally depends on their status as employees or independent contractors.  California attempted to provide a mandatory test for determining whether a driver is an employee or independent contract in its Assembly-Bill 5 (“AB-5”).

For three decades prior to the enactment of AB-5, California courts relied on a test based on the decision in S.G. Borello & Sons, Inc. v. Dep’t of Indus. Relations that considered the following factors when determining whether a worker was an employee or independent contractor: (a) the right to control work; (b) whether the worker is engaged in a distinct occupation or business; (c) the amount of supervision required; (d) the skill required; (e) whether the worker supplies the tools required; (f) the length of time for which services are to be performed; (g) the method of payment; (h) whether the work is part of the regular business of the principal; and (i) whether the parties believe they are creating an employer-employee relationship.[1] In April of 2018, the California Supreme Court replaced the Borello classification test with the “ABC test,” by its decision in Dynamex Operations West v. Superior Court.[2]  The AB-5 test essentially codified the “ABC test” established by Dynamex.

However, on December 31, 2019, the day before AB-5 was set to take effect, the Southern District of California granted a temporary restraining order in California Trucking Association, et al v. Attorney General Xavier Becerra, et al., temporarily enjoining the State of California from enforcing AB-5 as to any motor carrier operating in California. [3] Continue reading »

Freight Brokers Granted Some Limitations to Plaintiffs’ Vicarious Liability and Negligence Theories

Katherine M. Flett

By Katherine M. Flett



Since the Sperl v. C.H. Robinson Worldwide, Inc. decision in 2011, freight brokers have been battling vicarious liability claims for the actions of motor carriers and their truck drivers.

In Sperl, truck driver DeAn Henry was involved in a multi-vehicle collision, resulting in several deaths. Henry owned the tractor she was driving and leased it to Dragonfly, a motor carrier. When the collision occurred, she was delivering a load for CHR, a freight broker. Dragonfly and CHR entered into a contract carrier agreement, which described the relationship between the parties as follows:

“The parties understand and agree that the relationship of [Dragonfly] to [CHR] hereunder is solely that of an independent contract and that [Dragonfly] shall and does, employ, retain or lease on its own behalf all persons operating motor vehicles transporting commodities under this Contract.”

Nonetheless, Dragonfly gave Henry permission to use its carrier authority to book and deliver loads on her own. If Henry booked a load, she would be permitted to keep all the profit. If Dragonfly dispatched Henry, Dragonfly would be entitled to five percent. Suit was filed against CHR, among other defendants, for wrongful deaths and personal injuries.

trucking

At trial, Henry testified that Dragonfly did not dispatch her for the load she was transporting for CHR when the collision occurred, but instead Henry called CHR and requested the load herself.  Evidence revealed that CHR required Henry to have a refrigerated trailer of a specified length and CHR dictated special instructions concerning the load, including requirements that she pick up the load at a specified time, make daily check calls, and stay in constant communication with the CHR dispatchers. If Henry did not comply with the special instructions, she was subject to CHR’s system of fines.

At the close of trial, CHR moved for a directed verdict as to the agency issue, which was denied. The jury concluded that CHR was vicariously liable based on agency and entered judgment in favor of the plaintiffs in the amount of $23.8 million. The trial court denied CHR’s motion for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict and motion for new trial. Continue reading »