ST. PAUL, MN - Minnesota legislation being pushed by trial lawyers and opposed by TRALA and the Minnesota Trucking Association was vetoed by Governor Tim Pawlenty (R) May 25.
Calling the legislation "severely imbalanced," the Governor of Minnesota killed the legislation that would have redefined the term "motor vehicle" in such a way that non-negligent trailer owners could be held liable for the negligent actions of a driver of a semi tractor-trailer combination.
Following the passage of Senate File 251 by the legislature, TRALA wrote a letter to Governor Pawlenty on May 17 to ask for his veto of the legislation. TRALA explained that in many cases, trailers are not owned by the same company that owns the truck tractor that pulls it or trains the driver that operates the tractor. Additionally, the letter referenced passage of the federal law known as the Graves Amendment.
The Graves Amendment (49 USC 30106) prohibits states from holding non-negligent owners of rented and leased vehicles or trailers liable for the actions of vehicle operators. TRALA believes that same logic should be applied to this attempt to hold owners of compliant trailers liable for the actions of a tractor-trailer driver. Minnesota would have been the only state to pass a law that deems the driver an agent of the tractor owner as well as the trailer owner, thus creating liability exposure for non-negligent trailer owners.