In April this year, a Florida jury awarded Richard Wiederhold’s widow over $10 million in a wrongful death suit against Domino’s Pizza’s parent company. On January 13, 2011, a Domino’s delivery driver attempted to merge into traffic but nearly collided with Wiederhold, a former Brevard County district fire chief and Winter Park firefighter. Wiederhold swerved to avoid the crash, which caused his car to flip and hit a tree. The accident left Wiederhold paralyzed from the neck down. His then-fiancee Yvonne, who also suffered minor injuries in the crash, cared for him after the accident and took him to spinal cord and brain injury rehabilitation centers, but Wiederhold ultimately passed away from blood clots in his lungs resulting from the accident. Initially, the couple, who married after the accident, filed a personal injury lawsuit against the company, but Yvonne has forced to alter it into a wrongful death suit after Wiederhold died while the case was pending.
Who is Liable in a Delivery Driver Crash?
The trial focused on two major points: who caused the accident, and whether Domino’s was liable for the delivery driver’s actions. Domino’s argued that it was not liable for the accident because the driver worked for a franchisee which was an independent business rather than an agent of the parent company. Generally, an employee is acting as an agent of a company when performing duties in the scope of employment, and the company would be liable for that agent’s actions. When a company owns a franchise, the situation is more complicated and the question arises whether the company had enough control over the actions of the franchisee’s employees to render it liable for the employees’ negligent acts. The defense argued that the franchisee, rather than Domino’s parent company, had control over its employees, and that even the franchise agreement labeled it’s franchisee an “independent contractor,” absolving the parent company of liability.
Wiederhold’s lawyers argued that Domino’s had enough control over the major aspects of the franchise to make it liable for franchisee employees’ actions because of the amount of rules and restrictions it placed on franchisees and their employees. The independent contractor label, they argued, was simply an attempt to avoid liability in situations exactly like Wiederhold’s, and was not enough to excuse Domino’s from liability given all the other evidence showing that the company did have control over the franchisee.
The jury agreed, determining that the parent company is responsible for the actions of its franchisees, including negligent driving and resulting damages caused by a single delivery driver, and that Domino’s had enough control over the franchisee to make Domino’s liable for the actions of the franchisee’s employees. The jury found that Widerhold was ten percent at fault for the crash while the delivery driver was 90 percent liable, and awarded Yvonne over $10 million for mental anguish, loss of companionship, and pain and suffering.
Contact an Experienced Ocala Wrongful Death Lawyer
If your loved one has been injured or killed due to someone else’s negligence, no amount of money can compensate you for the anguish you have experienced, but you may be entitled to compensation for the medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering resulting from the accident. Lawyer John Piccin at the Piccin & Glynn in Ocala can help you navigate this difficult process and represent your family’s rights. Call John at 352-581-6174 for your free initial case consultation today.