Litigating Broker Liability for Trucking Accident Injury Claims: Theories of Liability, Defenses, Preemption

Recording of a 90-minute CLE webinar with Q&A

Conducted on Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Recorded event now available

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Course Materials

This CLE course will examine the liability of property (cargo) brokers and shippers for injuries sustained in trucking accidents. The panel will discuss the prevailing theories of liability, including negligent hiring, selection, vicarious liability and the statutory employment doctrine. We will also examine how brokers and shippers are mitigating risks, as well as the defense arguments that the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act (FAAAA) preempts all such claims.


Plaintiffs are increasingly suing and recovering claims for negligent selection or hiring of carriers and vicarious liability. Negligent selection happens when the broker selects a carrier that. A property broker can also be held vicariously liable if it retains the right to control the motor carrier.

Some brokers argue that a motor carrier has operating authority with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration means they are safe and qualified. Other brokers may also rely on a motor carrier's adequate rating and crash history with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is sufficient assurance and proof that the carrier will operate safely with adequately trained drivers. Brokers may examine motor carriers' safety records, sometimes using third-party services like SaferWatch or Carrier411, in addition to the information publicly available through the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Using these practices and tools, plaintiffs seek to learn whether the broker has developed a policy around its data; if not, the revelation requires a response argument from the defense.

Added into this mix, several federal district courts, but no circuit courts, have found that the FAAAA preempts these types of claims. On the other side, that the FAAAA contains wording that appears not to restrict the safety regulatory authority of a state concerning motor vehicles. Historically, federal courts have held as a matter of law that recognizing claims for negligent selection and hiring is a valid exercise of state police powers, including one federal circuit court.

Listen as this experienced panel guides counsel through making or defending the case against brokers and, in some cases, shippers.



  1. Overview of property (cargo) brokering
  2. Property (cargo) broker liability theories
  3. Key discovery/docs in broker cases
  4. How transportation indemnity agreements impact trucking cases
  5. Preemption issues


The panel will review these and other key issues:

  • What is a property (cargo) broker?
  • What regulations apply to property (cargo) brokers?
  • What theories of liability are available against brokers?
  • Is the risk of liability increased or decreased when a broker uses third-party software to monitor safety?
  • What claims may be preempted by the FAAAA?


Penn, Eric
Eric T. Penn

The Penn Law Firm

Mr. Penn has been an outspoken advocate for seriously injured people for more than seventeen (17) years. He represents...  |  Read More

Vaughn, Jay
Jay R. Vaughn

Hendy Johnson Vaughn Emery

Mr. Vaughn focuses his practice on personal injury, car wreck, trucking crash, traumatic brain injury, and wrongful...  |  Read More

Wright, Matthew
Matthew Wright

Wright Law

Mr. Wright’s practice is focused on representing trucking accident victims. He has served on the Board of...  |  Read More

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