In an ongoing case in Atlanta, the tractor trailer accident attorneys of the Simon Law Firm are tackling a common issue in trucking cases; can you sue the insurance company as a named defendant. In Georgia in normal car accident cases, you must sue the defendant driver but not their insurance company. Insurance lurks in the background, paying for the defense lawyer and paying any settlement or verdict up to the policy limits.
Cases against tractor trailer companies are different however. In a case we filed against a Chicken Processing Company out of Marietta over a rear end collision, the Defendant raised a number of defenses and claimed that their insurer was not subject to being sued as a named defendant and claimed that they transported agricultural products and were therefore exempt under OCGA 46-1-1(x)They also claimed that we could not bring the case in the county where the accident happened and must instead sue in the company’s home county.
We took the sworn depositions of the driver and company representative and learned that the company does not actually raise chickens; they only process them. Moreover, they process chicken for other owners which means they “transport goods for hire on the roadways in Georgia.” OCGA 46-1-1(18)
On the issue of whether these chicken processors are carrying exempt commodities, we pointed out the specific wording of the statute. “Motor vehicles engaged exclusively in the transportation of agricultural or dairy products, or both, between farm, market, gin, warehouse, or mill, whether such motor vehicle is owned by the owner or producer of such agricultural or dairy products or not, so long as the title remains in the producer.”
In this situation, they bought chickens and took title from the farms. It is key that for the Direct Action statute to apply, it is only necessary for some of the cargo to be non-exempt and non-owned.
It is the nuances of trucking cases that make them so interesting and at the same time make the practice a minefield for the inexperienced.