Many freight brokers will remember Sperl v. C.H. Robinson Worldwide, Inc., 408 Ill.App.3d 1051 (3d Dist. 2011). That was the Illinois appellate ruling affirming an agency relationship between a truck driver that caused a fatal collision and the broker that assigned the load. The court found that the evidence established that the broker had controlled the manner of the driver’s work in delivering loads it brokered. This case led to other decisions finding brokers vicariously liable for the conduct of the motor carrier’s driver.
One piece of the Sperl case is now pending before the Illinois Supreme Court. After paying the plaintiff the jury award of $23,225,000.00, the broker sought contribution from the motor carrier. The court granted the broker contribution against the motor carrier for 50% of the jury’s total award. The motor carrier appealed, contending that the broker was not entitled to contribution from the motor carrier because neither party was at fault. Rather, each party was a “blameless” principal that was vicariously liable for the fault of the same agent. The Third District appellate court reversed the contribution award, finding that one vicariously liable principal cannot seek contribution from another vicariously liable principal because there was no basis to compare their respective fault. The Supreme Court will settle this debate very soon.