Morrison County District Court File No. C0-02-470.
Considered and decided by Minge , Presiding Judge, Shumaker , Judge, and Crippen , Judge.
The liability of a carrier who leases equipment for the conduct of its owner/operator extends to the negligence of the owner/operator in operating the equipment or in other conduct within the scope of the agreement to provide hauling services. Genuine fact issues on the scope of the agreement must be resolved in trial proceedings.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Crippen, Judge
In proceedings on their claims arising out of the owner/operator's acts in unloading and stacking bales of hay the owner/operator had hauled, appellants contend the district court erroneously limited the liability of the motor carrier who leased the trucking equipment. The court granted summary judgment in favor of the carrier, concluding that the hauling contract extended only to the delivery of the bales, and that the stacking, as well as the unloading, were done by the owner/operator as a personal favor to the customers. Because, as appellants assert, there are genuine issues of material fact as to the scope of the hauling contract, we reverse and remand for trial.
Appellants are Daniel Oldakowski and his wife, Deanna. Daniel and his brother, Gordon Oldakowski (the Oldakowskis), hired Eric Scholl to haul a load of baled hay to the Oldakowski farm. The Oldakowskis had a longstanding relationship with Scholl, who rented a house and a small farm from them. Scholl owned and operated a freight truck and had a leasing contract with respondent M.P. Barrett Trucking, Inc. (Barrett), a company co-owned by Scholl's father.
On July 19, 1999, Scholl hauled over 60 large rectangular bales of hay to the Oldakowski farm. The farmer selling the bales loaded them onto Scholl's trailer bed without any help from Scholl or Gordon Oldakowski, who accompanied Scholl on the trip. On the return trip to the Oldakowski farm, the two discussed how the bales should be unloaded. No such conversation took place between Dan Oldakowski, his brother, Scholl, or anyone from Barrett prior to the truck's arrival at the farm. The Oldakowskis had recently purchased a skid-steer loader and planned to use that to unload the bales from the trailer. Because the Oldakowskis were not familiar with the loader, they asked Scholl to drive it and unload the bales.
Although Gordon Oldakowski testified at his deposition that he did not expect Scholl would unload the bales, he admitted that he asked him to do so without any thought as to what, if any, the charge would be. Gordon also admitted that because of their long history with Scholl, there were occasions in the past when Scholl had done work for them without expecting payment.
Scholl agreed to unload the bales. The Oldakowskis directed Scholl to stack the bales five high and indicated where to stack them. During the unloading and stacking process, several bales fell onto Dan Oldakowski, injuring his right leg, left hip, left wrist, and face.
Appellants initiated a lawsuit against respondent Barrett, alleging that it was vicariously responsible for Scholl's negligence in stacking the bales because Scholl was acting as Barrett's employee at the time of the accident. Barrett denied that Scholl was acting on its behalf at the time and alleged that ...