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There Is No “Professional Driver” Heightened Standard of Care for Commercial Truck Drivers

Photo credit: Veronica538 - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4052735

Commercial truck drivers receive additional and ongoing training compared to other motorists on the road.  Company driving manuals may even refer to commercial drivers as “professional” drivers.  The plaintiffs’ bar has attempted to turn this description into a heightened legal standard of care that imposes additional responsibilities and obligations beyond those found in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations and applicable state motor vehicle laws (equally applicable to all drivers).

One federal district court recently prevented a plaintiff from using the term “professional driver” at trial in Botey v. Green, No. 3:12-CV-1520, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 88207 (M.D. Pa. June 8, 2017).  In response to the motor carrier defendants’ motion in limine, the court correctly noted that the word “professional” clearly connotes a particular standard of care, and usage of that phrase could confuse or mislead the jury on the applicable standard of care.

The rules of the road apply equally to plaintiffs, other motorists, and commercial drivers.  Therefore, pretrial motions in limine are an effective tool to prevent the use of the phrase “professional driver” where it is offered for improper purposes—especially when it may confuse and mislead jurors into incorrectly imposing a heightened standard of care for commercial drivers.

Image by Veronica538, CC BY-SA 3.0