Negligence and Out of State Drivers: Alabama Courts Rule in Kitroser v. Hurt

Truck accidents are by far the most dangerous types of accidents because trucks can cause such serious damage. It is important for companies to be careful in their hiring of truck drivers because one second of negligence by a truck-driver can cost someone their life.Our Birmingham injury attorneys have helped those who have been involved in these Birmingham truck accident cases.

Recently the Florida Supreme Court heard a case involving a vehicle-truck collision. Kitroser et al. v. Hurt, et al., No. SC11-25 (Fla.Mar. 22, 2012). It all occurred because a truck-driver, Dale Dickey (“Dickey”), was driving a commercial truck negligently causing a collision with Rhina Castro Lara (“Lara”). Dickey was an employee of Airgas Carbonic, Inc. (“Airgas”). Airgas was incorporated outside of the state of Florida but they had a satellite facility within the state of Florida. It was at this facility that Dickey was trained and supervised in his capacity as a truck driver.

Unfortunately, Lara died as a result of her injuries in this vehicle-truck collision. Upon investigating, Lara’s estate (“Kitroser”) found information surrounding the hiring and supervising of Dickey. Because of this Kitoser then sued Dickey, Airgas, and five Airgas employees for negligence in the Florida county where the accident occurred.

Victim’s estate alleged that the Airgas employees working at the Florida office, had knowledge of Dickey’s bad driving record when they decided to hire him. Because Airgas hired a dangerous driver as a commercial truck driver, Kitoser argued that Airgas and the Airgas employees involved were liable for negligence.

The Airgas employees agreed that they were present at the Florida facility and that they were involved in training Dickey. However, they countered Kitoser’s claims, stating two arguments against the Florida court’s jurisdiction over them. First they argued that a Florida court did not have personal jurisdiction over them because they were out-of-state residents. The Airgas employees then argued that even if the court found that argument to fail, a Florida court should not hear the case because of the corporate shield doctrine.

Personal jurisdiction is the power a court has to make decisions that bind you to its ultimate decision. Usually the courts that will have jurisdiction over you are the courts in the state and county where you reside, where you own property, where you are served with notice of a cause of action, or where you consent to allow jurisdiction. The reason for these types of restrictions on jurisdiction is so that each person has an opportunity to be close to their adversarial proceedings in order to avoid inconvenience to parties and witnesses.

Because the employees were present in the state of Florida and they negligently hired Dickey within said state, the court here cited the well established rule. A state’s court system can have jurisdiction over a non-state resident where this person commits civil negligence within the state.

The corporate shield doctrine was the second assertion against personal liability that the employees argued. This doctrine protects employees from lawsuits arising in the state where the corporation is headquartered but where the employees have not been. Because the facts of this case are the opposite, this argument was dismissed.
For the reasons above, the court here held that it had personal jurisdiction over non-resident employees who were negligently fulfilling their job functions.

This case really shows that although every state is controlled by similar dictates, they vary in interpretation. The United States judicial system is divided by county, state, district and circuit. Because of this, it is important to be sure which court will hear your case. Especially in accidents where there is a corporation and driver involved, it is important to get the right information from a reliable attorney.

If you have been injured contact Alabama Injury Attorneys at Allred & Allred, P.C. to schedule a free appointment. Call 334.396.9200.

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