Pacheco v. Barschow, Docket No. X07HHDCV166083522S, 2019 Conn. Super. LEXIS 1098 (Super. May 6, 2019)

State and federal transportation laws did not apply to defendant’s rental truck.

The trial court granted the defendant’s, Penske Truck Leasing, motion for summary judgment, finding that the state and federal transportation laws the defendant was alleged to have violated did not apply. This decision stems from a wrongful death action initiated by the estate administrator against a truck leasing company, a separate lessor company and the operator of the leased vehicle. The plaintiff alleged Penske violated federal and state law by failing to ensure, or at least warn, the lessor company that the driver of the rental vehicle was required to have a commercial driver’s license.

The court agreed with the plaintiff’s contention that under 49 CFR § 391.11 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, a motor carrier is required to ensure properly licensed drivers. However, the trial court determined Penske could not be considered a motor carrier under this section of the regulation as 49 CFR § 390.5T defines “motor carrier” as a person “engaged in the transportation of goods or passengers for compensation.” Since Penske was engaged solely in the business of renting the subject vehicle, it could not be considered a motor carrier under the present circumstances and thus could not be found liable under the federal statute alleged.

With regard to the state transportation law, the court determined the plaintiff failed to provide sufficient proof the moving defendant violated Connecticut General Statutes § 14-44a, which requires a commercial driver’s license for any individual operating a “commercial vehicle” of at least 26,001 pounds. Under C.G.S. § 14-1(19), a commercial vehicle is defined as a motor vehicle “designed or used to transport passengers or property…” Thus, whereas the federal law regulates the individual operating the vehicle, the Connecticut law follows the vehicle itself.

Therefore, in accordance with the statute, the determination as to whether the vehicle required an operator with a commercial driver’s license rests on the weight of the vehicle. For the purposes of the present action, C.G.S. § 14-1(19) requires a commercial driver’s license for vehicles of a “gross vehicle weight rating” of 26,001 pounds or more, and C.G.S. § 14-1 (40) provides an objective definition of gross vehicle weight rating as the “value specified by the manufacturer as the maximum loaded weight …” of the vehicle. In the case at bar, Penske provided unchallenged evidence that the vehicle’s gross vehicle weight rating was 25,999 pounds. By failing to provide evidence rebutting the gross vehicle weight rating provided by the defendants, the trial court determined the statute did not not apply to the rental vehicle and no duty existed under the statute. 


Case Law Alerts, 3rd Quarter, July 2019

Case Law Alerts is prepared by Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin to provide information on recent developments of interest to our readers. This publication is not intended to provide legal advice for a specific situation or to create an attorney-client relationship. Copyright © 2019 Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin, all rights reserved. This article may not be reprinted without the express written permission of our firm.