Monday, November 11, 2013

Puckrein v. ATI Transport, Inc. case brief

Puckrein v. ATI Transport, Inc. case brief summary
897 A.2d 1034 (2006)

The court granted certification to plaintiffs, an administrator of the estates of two decedents and the mother of one of the decedents and her spouse, with regard to the Superior Court, Appellate Division (New Jersey) affirming a trial court's grant of summary judgment in favor of defendant, Browning-Ferris Industries of New York, Inc. (BFI-NY). Plaintiffs brought suit against 22 defendants for wrongful death, personal injury, and other claims.


The decedents were killed and the mother was seriously injured when their automobile was struck by an unregistered and uninsured tractor-trailer with defective brakes. The tractor-trailer was owned by a transport corporation. At the time of the accident, the tractor-trailer was transporting a load of glass residue for BFI-NY. BFI-NY had actually contracted with a carting corporation to transport the load, with the carting corporation, in turn, assigning its responsibilities to the transport corporation. Plaintiffs prevailed at trial but all defendants were, by then, judgment proof. On appeal, plaintiffs argued that BFI-NY was vicariously liable for the negligence of the carting and transport corporations and that it hired an incompetent contractor for whose acts it was responsible.


  • The court held that a company like BFI-NY, whose core purpose was the collection and transportation of materials on the highways, had a duty to use reasonable care in the hiring of an independent trucker, including a duty to make an inquiry into the trucker's ability to travel legally on the highways. 
  • As such, BFI-NY was not entitled to summary judgment on the incompetent contractor exception.

The court reversed the judgment, reinstated the complaint against BFI-NY, and remanded the cause to the trial court for further proceedings.

Suggested Study Aids For Tort Law

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