Misrepresentations of Safety: Uncovering Liability for Injuries

mud_background_parched_dry-1024x768We all like to think we can rely on other people’s assertions that something is safe. But what happens when it turns out someone is making misrepresentations about safety? Can they be held liable for resulting injuries? The following lawsuit out of St. Landry parish helps answer that question.

Ryan Stroder worked as a trucker driver for MyVac, LLC. He was called to one of Hilcorp Energy’s land-based oil rigs to transport drilling mud for disposal. Hilcorp Energy ordered him to bring an open-ended dump truck to transport the mud. 

Stroder thought the mud was too fluid to be hauled in the open-ended dump truck when he arrived. He offered to return and get another truck that would be more appropriate for hauling the mud. When he raised these concerns, he was assured by Monty Lanthier, who worked for Thomas Stevens as an independently contracted “company man,” and Freddie Grimaldo, a solids control operator employed by Gulf Coast, that it would be safe to proceed with transporting the mud with his open-ended dump truck. Those assurances proved incorrect because shortly thereafter, while driving a few miles away from the rig, the load shifted and caused the truck to overturn, injuring Stroder. 

Stroder filed a lawsuit against Hilcorp Energy, Lanthier, Stevens, Grimaldo, and Gulf Coast (collectively, the “Defendants”). The Defendants all filed summary judgment motions, claiming they did not owe Stroder a duty because only Stroder had a duty to secure his load because he was a commercial driver. The trial court granted the Defendants’ summary judgment motion dismissing Stroder’s case. Stroder appealed the ruling. 

The issue on appeal was whether Defendants owed Stroder a duty of care. Under federal law, a carrier has a nondelegable duty to secure all his loads safely. See 49 C.F.R. § 392.9.  This includes making sure the cargo is adequately secured and properly distributed. Most federal courts have held the carrier has the primary duty to ensure the property is safely loaded. However, shippers can still be held liable when they make assurances about the shipments’ safety. 

Stroder testified he had raised concerns about transporting the mud with his truck but claimed to have received assurances from Grimaldo and Lanthier that it would be safe to transport it. Given these disputes about whether the mud’s liquidity was obvious and apparent and the credibility of the witnesses, summary judgment was not appropriate. Therefore, the appellate court reversed the trial court’s judgment granting Defendants’ summary judgment motions. 

When someone misrepresents safety, they may bear legal responsibility for the injuries that occur. In this case, the appellate court recognized that the defendants, who provided false assurances about the safety of transporting drilling mud, may indeed owe a duty of care to Stroder. The decision to reverse the trial court’s summary judgment motions emphasizes the importance of evaluating the duties owed by individuals involved in the misrepresented situation. 

If you find yourself injured due to someone’s misrepresentations, it is essential to seek guidance from a knowledgeable attorney who can help assess the potential liability of those who may have breached their duty of care. Holding accountable those who make false claims about safety protects victims’ rights. Also, it serves as a reminder that honesty and integrity must always be upheld, particularly when lives and well-being are at stake.

Additional Sources: Ryan Lee Stroder, Individually, Etc. v. Hilcorp Energy Co. et al.

Article Written By Berniard Law Firm 

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