Property where Food Truck was Parked Not Liable for Explosion Because Accident was not Foreseeable
While waiting in line at a taco food truck, German Linares was struck by debris when the food truck suddenly exploded. Linares sustained serious injuries and was taken by ambulance to the hospital. Linares later filed a negligence suit against both El Tacarajo, the food truck operator, and U-Pull-And-Pay (UPAP), the salvage yard/business on which the food truck was parked.
Linares argued in his complaint that El Tacarajo was negligent, that UPAP failed to take reasonable steps to investigate the food truck’s operations and that UPAP was also vicariously liable for El Tacajaro’s negligent acts because it was in a joint venture with the food truck on its commercial property. Shortly thereafter, UPAP filed a motion for summary judgment, seeking to be excused from the case, and argued that it owed no duty to protect Linares from the unforeseeable actions of El Tacarajo and that it was not vicariously liable for the food truck’s negligent acts. The Marion Superior Court granted the motion in favor of UPAP.
Linares appealed to the Indiana Court of Appeals and argued that given the nature of UPAP’s business (a salvage yard), a gas explosion of any sort on UPAP’s property was foreseeable. Linares also argued that the claim arose from the condition of the land, which was owned by UPAP. Linares further asserted he was “injured due to a dangerous appliance and the hazardous use of explosive materials[,]” and if UPAP had taken precautions to inspect the food truck, the explosion could have been prevented.
The appeal turned out to be a split decision, but ultimately UPAP was not found to have been liable for the explosion. The majority found that although the stove in the food truck on UPAP’s property ignited and caused the explosion, Linares’ injuries resulted from the activities of El Tacarajo’s employees in relation to the stove. Thus, the appellate court concluded the foreseeability analysis must be applied to determine if a duty exists, and that analysis determined the explosion was not foreseeable.
The majority also found that UPAP and El Tacajaro were not engaged in a joint venture – thus defeating the vicarious liability argument – because the parties’ agreement did not provide for profit-sharing and no decisions were made jointly in regard to the food operation. There was also a dissenting opinion issued in this case which argued that UPAP should have made inquiries to find whether an explosion was likely to occur and take necessary steps to avoid them.
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