Wrongful Death - Florida’s Dangerous Instrumentality Doctrine – Vicarious Liability – Tractor Trailer – Owner/Lessor - Final Summary Judgment

Eric Peterson and his team obtained a final summary judgment on behalf of  the owner of a tractor-trailer in a wrongful death action brought by the decedents estate against the owner for vicarious liability under Florida’s Dangerous Instrumentality Doctrine.  Plaintiff was killed instantly when her vehicle was struck from behind by the tractor-trailer owned by the defendant.  The tractor-trailer was driven by an employee of the co-defendant company that leased the tractor-trailer from the owner.  The owner moved for final summary judgment arguing that it was exempt from liability as the owner of the tractor-trailer pursuant to Fla. Stat. 324.021(9)(b)(1).  This statute relieves an owner/lessor from liability under Florida’s Dangerous Instrumentality Doctrine so long as the lease term is for one year or longer and the lessee maintains liability insurance that provides coverage limits not less than the limits set forth in the statute.  The trial court entered final summary judgment in favor of the owner and plaintiff appealed the ruling to the 4th DCA where the ruling was affirmed.  The case proceeded to trial against the co-defendants and the jury awarded over $12,000,000 in damages.