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English to Mandarin Chinese Interpreting Services for Personal Injury Cases.

Professional Mandarin Chinese interpreters play an important role in personal injury litigation. In the case below, one of the defendants spoke Mandarin and used a Chinese interpreter while testifying at his deposition about the accident he was involved in.

In Pugh v. Junquing and Ying Lan Trucking Express, the plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit for injuries she sustained in an accident involving a commercial tractor-trailer. The plaintiff’s complaint alleged the following claims: 1) negligence against the truck driver regarding his operation of the vehicle; 2) negligence against the trucking company for its negligent hiring/supervision of the truck driver and its negligent maintenance and repair of the vehicle; and 3) a vicarious liability claim against the trucking company for the truck driver’s negligence. In addition to general damages, the plaintiff requested punitive damages against defendants for their negligence. In response to the plaintiff’s lawsuit, the defendants filed a motion for summary judgment on the issue of punitive damages and requested a bifurcated trial on the issues of compensatory and punitive damages, which the plaintiff opposed.

Background on Chinese-Speaking Truck Driver.

The defendant driver moved from China to the United States in 2011. The Chinese driver had never driven in China, but he got his driver’s license in California in 2011. He then obtained his commercial driver’s license in 2013 after completing a sixth month course at a commercial truck driving school.

The defendant worked as a server in a restaurant until 2013. At some point thereafter, the defendants’ parents asked the owners of the trucking company (who were husband and wife), to give their son a chance to become a truck driver with their company. The defendant was required to fill out a number of forms in connection with his employment, which were explained to him in Mandarin. One of the documents the defendant signed was a form attesting to his own “driver proficiency.” Neither management nor the defendant’s supervisor attested to the Chinese driver’s driving ability, even though they knew that he had never driven a truck before. The defendant also signed a form stating that he understood that the defendant truck company required drivers to be able to read, write, and speak fluent English, have a minimum of 9 months CDL experience, and have no more than one preventable accident in the past 12 months.

Chinese Driver is Involved in Accident While Driving Truck, Uses Mandarin Chinese Interpreter at Deposition.

In 2015, the defendant truck driver rear-ended a car stopped ahead of him on an interstate in St. Louis County, Missouri. The accident occurred in a construction zone, although the driver denied this. The defendant was not tested for drugs following the accident. After the accident, the defendant returned to Los Angeles and subsequently completed an incident report in Simplified Chinese.

During his deposition, the defendant testified through a Mandarin Chinese interpreter. The defendant testified that he spoke Mandarin with the owners and the other driver at the trucking company and said that his basic English was “ok,” but not at a level well enough to study. He was aware of the Department of Transportation’s (“DOT”) requirement that driver’s speak “basic English” before he accepted the position as a truck driver. The evidence also revealed that the defendant trucking company had been cited by the DOT on two prior occasions for employing drivers who were not fluent in basic English.

After the close of discovery, the defendants filed a motion for summary judgment on the grounds that the plaintiff did not have sufficient evidence of “outrageous” conduct on their part to sustain a claim for punitive damages against them. Specifically, the defendants argued that the plaintiff was not entitled to punitive damages because there was no evidence that the accident was caused by the defendant’s lack of English-language proficiency, his failure to be drug-tested, his lack of prior commercial truck driving experience, or the defendant truck company’s failure to require the driver to submit a written job application.

Court Dismisses Punitive Damages Claim Against Chinese Driver; Allows Punitive Damages Claim to Proceed Against Defendant Trucking Company.

After considering the parties’ briefs, the court dismissed the plaintiff’s punitive damages claim against the Chinese driver but allowed the plaintiff’s punitive damages claim against the truck driving company to go forward. The court held that there was conflicting evidence as to whether the defendant driver met the English fluency requirements of the DOT or whether his limited English speaking ability led to the accident. As to the defendant trucking company, the court held that “Missouri courts allow evidence of failure to follow motor carrier regulations in industry standards to support awards of punitive damages against commercial motor carriers.” The court held that the trucking company had a duty to make sure the defendant driver was qualified to drive its truck, and it was uncertain whether the defendant driver could satisfy the DOT requirements that the trucking company’s “basic English” policy was meant to support. The court also denied the defendants’ request for a bifurcated trial.

The case is Tiffany Pugh v. Fang Junquing and Ying Lan Trucking Express, Court No. 4:16-CV-1881 RLW, decided on March 20, 2018 by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri Eastern Division.

Legal interpreters at All Language Alliance, Inc. are available for on-site legal deposition interpreting services in Mandarin Chinese, Spanish, Dari, Korean, Russian, Hmong, Pashto, Somali, and other languages for personal injury litigation cases. Contact us to schedule a qualified medical interpreter for an IME (Independent Medical Exam) in any language.

**This law translation blog should not be construed as legal advice. You should always consult an attorney regarding your specific legal needs.

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