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Litigating Equipment Failures in Trucking Cases: The Blurring of Negligence and Products Liability

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

This program is included with the Strafford CLE Pass. Click for more information.
This program is included with the Strafford All-Access Pass. Click for more information.

Conducted on Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Recorded event now available

or call 1-800-926-7926

The CLE course will show both plaintiffs and defense counsel in trucking accident litigation how to prevent a manufacturer whose product caused an accident from escaping its obligations to contribute its fair share of any recovery. As product liability issues routinely intrude into trucking cases, attorneys for all parties may have both a duty and the desire to seek adequate and just compensation from additional defendants under product liability theories.


Operator negligence and the truck owner's negligent maintenance are traditionally the basis of most trucking accident cases. Increasingly, trucking fleets are using autonomous and semi-autonomous anti-collision systems composed of software, sensors, and hardware that will theoretically react faster than human drivers. These systems include automatic braking systems to avoid rear-end collisions, radar systems to detect lane departures, and camera systems to increase the driver's field of vision.

Design and warning defects are inevitable as these systems are not dependable and do not always make operating a large commercial vehicle safer. Unnecessary emergency braking plagues many vehicles, radar systems may not work with safety bumpers, and some systems cannot detect pedestrians who aren't moving.

When drivers relied on systems that failed, manufacturers may attempt to avoid responsibility by blaming the trucking company, the driver, and victims. Operating manuals point to the "attentive driver" as key to safety but market the system as reliable. Manufacturers may also assert that software is not a tangible "product." Still, manufacturers have a duty to provide instructions for the safe use of systems and what may happen if a system is not used as directed, either of which may require direction about manually overriding systems.

Listen as the panel explores claims for design defects and defective warning, breach of warranties and representations, and defeating product liability defenses raised by manufacturers selling their products as dependable and safe.



  1. Overview of products liability theory
    1. Design, manufacturing, warning
    2. How negligence differs
  2. Product defects found in traditional trucking equipment
  3. Product defects in software and sensor-driven safety systems
    1. Design and warning defects
    2. Foreseeability issues
  4. Countering manufacturers efforts to shift blame to drivers


The panel will review these and other topics:

  • What types of "safety" systems are involved in claims?
  • What types of defects (design, manufacturing, warning) are most likely to present?
  • What substantive or definitional defenses are manufacturers putting up to avoid liability?
  • Can defense counsel benefit from using the plaintiff's tactics against manufacturers or other third-party defendants?
  • What is the impact of automation?


Latimer, Walter
Walter G. Latimer

Fowler White Burnett

Mr. Latimer is an AV-rated trial lawyer who focuses his practice on complex high-exposure transportation, toxic tort,...  |  Read More

McCloskey, Seth
Seth McCloskey

Law Offices of Steven C. Laird

Mr. McCloskey  has experience as a bankruptcy litigator under a Chapter 7 Trustee and has worked as a Justice of...  |  Read More

Renda, Bruno
Bruno Renda

Fowler White Burnett

Mr. Renda is a shareholder in the Insurance Practice Group in the Fort Lauderdale and Miami offices. He is a civil...  |  Read More

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