Tri-National v. Canal Ins. Co. – Trucking Firm Insurer Must Pay for Accident

The Alabama truck accident that spurred the federal case of Tri-National, Inc. v. Canal Ins. Co. did not result in any severe personal injuries, though it very well could have.

There was extensive property damage when a semi-tractor and trailer driver collided with another truck. However, no one was seriously injured. Still, the case before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit reveals how trucking companies are regarded under the Federal Motor Carrier Act of 1980, and the obligations they have when crashes happen.

While the act was largely an effort to deregulate the trucking industry, it did impose additional requirements for motor carriers that transport property. This includes the responsibility of the carrier to make sure it has the required limits of insurance to cover public liability in the event of a crash. Even if the victim has their own insurance, it does not absolve the trucking company and/or its insurer of responsibility for paying damages caused from negligent operation of these large vehicles.

Regardless of the agreement between the trucking company and the insurer, the bottom line is that the victim should never be left empty-handed.

According to court records in this case, the Alabama trucking accident happened in June 2007 when a tractor-trailer struck another truck. The plaintiff whose truck was hit filed a claim with his own insurance company, which paid a little more than $91,000 to cover the damages, and then retained a subrogation interest in the claim – meaning it sought reimbursement for that payment.

Meanwhile, defendants were insured by a company called Canal, and that policy included a federal MCS-90 endorsement. Three years after the crash, insurer sought a declaratory judgment against its client, the other insurance company and others indicating it had no duty to defend or indemnify the truck company defendants under the policy and that the MCS-90 endorsement didn’t require it to satisfy the claim by the other insurer for subrogation.

An Alabama state court entered a default judgment only as it related to indemnification of the trucking company. However, the court did not make any determination regarding the MCS-90 endorsement.

The remaining claim was dismissed at plaintiff insurer’s request, after it was indicated a new claim would be filed. The new lawsuit – the plaintiff trucking company against the defendant insurer – took place in Missouri and resulted in a $91,000 default judgment. The proceeds were to go directly to the plaintiff’s insurance company.

Defendant insurer then removed the case to federal court, which granted the plaintiff trucking company’s motion for summary judgment. Defendant insurer appealed, arguing plaintiff insurer should have been the one to sue – not the trucking company – and that the MCS-90 endorsement did not require it to satisfy the plaintiff trucking company’s default judgment against defendant trucking company.

However, the Eighth Circuit affirmed, noted MCS-90 does require the insurer to issue compensation, and that just because the plaintiff trucking company had its own insurance, the other insurance company wasn’t automatically absolved of its obligations under federal law.

Trucking firms usually operate with the aid of many partners and in the event of an accident, there are often many different claims of liability to be made against varying entities. This case reveals how trucking accidents can quickly become the subject of complex litigation requiring an experienced legal team to fight for full compensation for victims.

Call Allred & Allred P.C. at 334.396.9200 to speak with a Montgomery personal injury lawyer.

Additional Resources:
Tri-National, Inc. v. Canal Ins. Co., March 20, 2015, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
More Blog Entries:
Bean v. Pacific Coast Elevator Corp. – Crash Verdict Affirmed, March 30, 2015, Montgomery Truck Accident Lawyer Blog

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