An Indiana judge sided with Dollar General in a negligence lawsuit filed by a former U.S. Xpress (NYSE: USX) delivery driver, who claimed his arm was ripped from its socket while unloading a top-heavy metal container at one of its stores in May of 2016.
Indiana U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Walton Pratt granted Dollar General’s motion for summary judgment on July 16, claiming the discount chain relinquished all control over the trailer and its contents to U.S. Xpress and its delivery driver, Lee Till, once the truck left its distribution center, according to terms of the dedicated account contract.
While the Dollar General distribution center admitted it packed, inspected and loaded the roll-tainers – steel cages on wheels it uses to hold its freight – into the trailer “without the assistance or involvement of U.S. Xpress or Till,” Pratt found the company wasn’t at fault for the driver’s injury.
On May 28, 2016, Till, a military veteran who had worked for U.S. Xpress for more than two years, said he picked up a 48-foot trailer from the Marion, Indiana, Dollar General distribution center that was full of approximately 48 roll-tainers and headed to the discount chain’s store in Mooresville, Indiana.
According to court documents, U.S. Xpress dedicated account drivers do not open the trailers and that Dollar General security guards are required to break the seals. The delivery drivers are required to push the roll-tainers through the threshold of the door allocated by the discount chain’s store manager, but that drivers do not unload or unpack the containers.
As Till was pushing one of the roll-tainers loaded with cases of water, jugs of water and canned goods across the store’s threshold, it bucked back against him, knocking him to his knees. When it rolled toward him, Till said he tried to push it off of him, but his arm got caught in the cage, resulting in his arm being ripped out of its socket, court documents allege.
Dollar General, headquartered in Goodlettsville, Tennessee, has more than 15,000 stores in 44 states. The company said its roll-tainers typically weigh between 700 and 1,000 pounds, but the one involved in the incident with Till weighed between 800 and 1,000 pounds.
“However, in this case, the roll-tainer was loaded to the top with cases of water and was too heavy to be safely pushed across the door’s threshold,” according to court documents.
“While Till points to undisputed facts that Dollar General packed the roll-tainers, inspected the roll-tainers and loaded the roll-tainers into the trailer without assistance or involvement of U.S. Xpress or Till, the undisputed facts also show that Dollar General relinquished all control over the trailer and roll-tainers to U.S. Xpress and Till when [he] picked up the trailer,” Pratt wrote in her decision.
Since the roll-tainer hadn’t yet crossed the store’s threshold, Pratt wrote that Dollar General was not at fault for causing the injury “at the time [it] occured.”