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Illinois Law BlogLegal updates, news, and commentary from the attorneys of Baker Sterchi Cowden & Rice LLC

Admitting agency no longer bars direct negligence theories in Illinois.

May 5, 2022 | Joseph Swift, Jennifer Maloney and John Brooks

An effective tool in attempting to limit recovery and the scope of discovery in Illinois may be gone. In McQueen v. Green, a tractor-trailer accident case involving personal injuries, the Illinois Supreme Court overruled Illinois’ application of Missouri’s “McHaffie Rule”  (McHaffie v Bunch, 891 S.W.2d 822 (Mo. banc 1995)) which bars theories of “direct” negligence against a principal if the principal admits it is vicariously liable for the acts or omissions of its agent.  The rationale of the Missouri Supreme Court in McHaffie is that once vicarious liability is admitted, additional liability theories are extraneous.   The practical effect of this rule is that it limits the scope of relevant evidence.   It also eliminates the potential of duplicative awards of damages, that is, a jury awarding damages for a theory based on negligent operation of a truck and a theory based upon a principal’s failure to train for which damages are indivisible.

Unfortunately, the McQueen opinion will probably ensure most lawsuits arising out of tractor-trailer accidents will include not only vicarious liability theories against motor carriers, but also claims of negligent hiring, retention and entrustment, even though the carriers fully complied with FMCSA regulations.   

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About Illinois Law Blog

Baker Sterchi's Illinois Law Blog examines significant developments, trends and changes in Illinois law on a broad range of topics that are of interest to Illinois practitioners and to businesses evaluating risks under Illinois law or managing litigation subject to Illinois law. Learn more about the editor, Lisa Larkin.

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