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An employer might be liable for its employees' negligence

A recent lawsuit illustrates the complexities that can arise in a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit. 

In the case, the surviving family members of four Texas veterans alleged the operation of a Union Pacific Corp freight train had been negligent. The veterans were killed when their parade float collided with the train.

Under the doctrine of respondeat superior, a company might be liable for the negligent acts of the train's crew, to the extent their actions were performed within the normal course of their job duties. The theory can be viable in personal injury lawsuits, as there are many ways that an employer might be liable for its employees' actions. For example, a negligence lawsuit might allege that an employer failed to properly train its employees for job-specific duties. Perhaps equipment maintained by the company was in need of repair. Perhaps an employer was negligent in its hiring, placing employees in positions for which they were clearly not suited.

Unfortunately, it's also common for the defendant(s) in a motor vehicle or mass transit accident lawsuit to assert various defenses. One such defense might be comparative negligence, where the defendant claims that the victims were partially to blame for their own injuries. In this case, the parade float crossed the tracks even though the warning lights were flashing.

In this case, the court ruled for the train company. In a written judgment, the court concluded that there was insufficient evidence to prove that the collision might have been avoidable had the crew not been negligent. 

Source: Yahoo News, "Lawsuit against Union Pacific over deadly Texas collision dismissed," Lisa Maria Garza, Feb. 12, 2015

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