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Gauthier v. Total Quality Logistics

Total Quality Logistics is a freight broker that selected motor carrier Hard to Stop LLC and/or its employee Ronald Bernard Shingles to transport a product from a poultry plant on Georgia State Route 73 to a customer. Distracted and driving a truck with improperly maintained brakes, Mr. Shingles missed his turn into the plant and so attempted to make an illegal U-turn on the highway. He wound up blocking several lanes. Peter Gauthier, who was driving on Georgia State Route 73 at the time, was unable to avoid hitting the truck and died as a result of the injuries that he suffered during the collision.

Mr. Gauthier’s wife filed suit on behalf of herself, his estate, and their minor daughters, alleging, among other things, that Total Quality was negligent in hiring and retaining Mr. Shingles and/or Hard to Stop. The district court dismissed the negligent hiring claim, holding that it was barred by the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act, which preempts state laws “related to a price, route, or service of any motor carrier … [or] broker.” 49 U.S.C. § 14501(c)(1).

Ms. Gauthier appealed to the Eleventh Circuit, where Public Citizen filed an amicus brief to explain that the negligent hiring claim does not fall within the scope of the preemption provision in 49 U.S.C. § 14501(c)(1) because it does not relate to broker prices, routes, or services.  The brief also explains that, if the claim did fall within the scope of § 14501(c)(1), it would be saved from preemption by § 14501(c)(2)(A), which provides an exception to preemption for the “safety regulatory authority of  a State with respect to motor vehicles.”