Negligent Hiring

Direct Liability & the Independent Tort of Negligent Hiring

Beginning in 2004, the ground shifted under the feet of shippers. From the late 19th century (in the days when actual teamsters moved freight by driving actual teams of horses) through 2004, the legal landscape was flat and featureless, the rules easy to understand. A carrier picked up freight. The carrier delivered the freight. Between those two points, the carrier, and the carrier alone, was liable for any and all property damage or bodily injury it caused. This has changed. Today, spurred by the Maryland federal court decision in Schramm v. Foster, over and over, shippers are being held liable for property damage or bodily injury (including wrongful death) caused by motor carriers. Shipper liability arises where a plaintiff can show (1) the carrier caused injury to the plaintiff's property or person through negligence, recklessness or intentional misconduct and (2) the shipper did not exercise reasonable care or perform proper due diligence when it screened, vetted, and selected the carrier to move the shipper's freight.

The Duty of Reasonable Care and Due Diligence is an independent, non-delegable legal duty imposed on shippers. It cannot be avoided by contract, it cannot be passed to a carrier or broker. In order to perform due diligence and exercise reasonable care, shippers need tools. Tools like