Friday, February 27, 2015

Why trucking companies "stipulate to liability" in injury crashes



In Wisconsin, the trucking company biggies are:
  • ABF Freight System
  • American Freightways
  • C.H. Robinson Worldwide
  • Con-Way Transportation
  • FedEx Freight
  • Fox Transportation
  • J.B. Hunt Transport Services
  • Landstar System
  • Mayflower
  • Ryder
  • Saia Motor Freight
  • Scheider National
  • Swift Transportation
  • UPS Freight
  • Werner Enterprises
  • YRC Worldwide
According to a defense lawyer, the goal of stipulating to liability is "to exclude some prejudicial facts and to soften the jury's desire to punish."  You see, juries want to protect public safety.  They know bad conduct rewarded is repeated.  They also realize that crash victims are simply members of their community.

Jurors who hear how a trucking company chose to hire unqualified drivers or to give little or no training or supervision get concerned.  They see there has been a failure at the trucking company.  They see the trucking company is not protecting us from bad truck drivers.  Thus, companies want to avoid genuine accountability for the consequences of their choices and to hide those choices from a jury by "stipulating to liability."

For example, say prior to a crash a truck driver did something bad and the company chose to ignore it.  No trucking company wants a jury to know that.  So, the company concedes its driver's fault in causing a crash to avoid having the bad facts put in evidence.  Before trial, company lawyers argue to the judge that evidence of the bad facts is no longer admissible and unfortunately sometimes they succeed in hiding the facts.  The company then comes to trial begging for mercy while, at the same time, attacking the crash victim and blaming everything but the crash for the victim's damages.  The hope is to avoid a showing at trial that the crash was foreseeable and the company failed to protect the public.

Though this strategy may work to a certain extent, I believe in the uncompromising integrity of Wisconsin's jury system.  I am thankful that more often than not, our jurors decide theses cases the right way.