Federal Court Issues Opinion in Negligent Entrustment Case

The legal theory of negligent entrustment allows for an Indiana car accident victim to seek compensation from the owner of a vehicle who negligently allowed another person to use the vehicle that was involved in the accident. Since a negligent entrustment claim allows for an accident victim to hold a third party (the vehicle’s owner) liable for the negligent actions of a party (the driver), it is a form of vicarious liability.

Commonly, negligent entrustment claims are brought against those who lend their cars to young or intoxicated drivers. Each state has its own laws when it comes to establishing a negligent entrustment claim, but a universal requirement is that the plaintiff be able to establish that the owner of the vehicle had some reason to believe that the person they allowed to use their car posed a danger to other motorists.

A federal appellate court recently issued a written opinion in a negligent entrustment case illustrating how courts analyze these claims.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was driving on the highway when another motorist made an illegal turn in front of his car, causing an accident. As it turns out, the other car was driven by an international tourist who was 21 years old at the time and had rented the car from the defendant car rental agency.

The rental agency had a written policy not to rent vehicles to those under the age of 25. However, the agency made an exception in this case and allowed the underage driver to rent the vehicle. The plaintiff filed a negligent entrustment case against the car rental agency.

The Court’s Analysis

The court began its analysis by outlining the necessary elements of a negligent entrustment claim, noting that this case came down to one element:  whether the defendant rental car agency “knew or should have known that the third-party was likely to use the vehicle in such a manner as to create an unreasonable risk of harm to others.”

The court held that the agency did not have such knowledge, and under the circumstances, it had no reason to suspect that the driver posed an unreasonable risk of harm. The court explained that negligent entrustment claims require some actual knowledge of incompetence or dangerousness, usually in regard to the mental state of the person whom they are allowing to use their car or that person’s poor driving history. The court held that the mere fact that the at-fault driver was underage was insufficient to hold the rental agency liable.

Interestingly, an older Indiana appellate decision dealt with a similar issue regarding the sale of a vehicle to a person without a license. However, the court did not reach the same question discussed above because the court concluded that there was no evidence suggesting the dealership actually inquired about whether the purchaser had a valid driver’s license.

Have You Been Injured in an Indiana Car Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in an Indiana car accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The dedicated personal injury attorneys at the law firm of Parr Richey Frandsen Patterson Kruse have extensive experience helping Indiana victims and their families seek the compensation they deserve. To learn more, call 888-532-7766 to schedule a free consultation today.

Related Posts:

Court Rules in Business’ Favor in Recent Premises Liability Lawsuit Involving Children at Play, Indiana Injury Lawyer Blog, April 2, 2018

Court Affirms Dismissal of Premises Liability Case, Finding Hazard Was “Open and Obvious”, Indiana Injury Lawyer Blog, March 19, 2018

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