Negligent Entrustment Liability in Indiana Premises Liability Cases

When an individual suffers an injury at an Indiana business, they should explore all possible avenues of relief against all potentially liable parties. In addition to the person or entity that is directly responsible for their injuries, Indiana injury victims should consider third-parties, who also contributed to the damages they sustained. In some cases, business owners may be accountable under a negligent entrustment theory when an injury results from a dangerous instrumentality.

For example, recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a case stemming from injuries a woman suffered at a grocery store. Among other issues, the woman filed a negligent entrustment claim against the grocery store when a customer driving a motorized cart struck her. The woman alleged that the grocery chain provided the cart to customers without any instruction or warnings and assumed that the drivers knew how to operate the cart. The lower trial court found in favor of the woman; however, the appellate court ultimately concluded that the woman did not meet the causation element of a negligent entrustment case. Further, they held that she could not prove that the store should have known that the driver would operate the cart negligently or recklessly.

An individual or entity may be liable under the theory of negligent entrustment when they allow a person to operate a dangerous instrumentality, and that person causes an injury to a third party while using that instrumentality. Often, these cases arise when a person entrusts someone with a vehicle or a firearm. Victims in these cases can prevail based on the idea that the person entrusting the item to the negligent party should have known that the person could harm others with the object based on the negligent party’s inexperience or age.

Indiana accident victims must be able to prove five elements to succeed on a negligent entrustment claim. First, they must establish that the owner entrusted the instrumentality to the person who caused the accident. Then the actual operator must have been incompetent or acted unreasonably or recklessly. Third, the plaintiff must be able to prove that the owner knew or should have known that the operator was unskilled or would act unreasonably or recklessly. Next, the operator must have acted negligently. Finally, the victim must establish their damages are because of the operator’s negligence.

Most negligent entrustment cases hinge on the knowledge of the owner of the dangerous instrumentality. Plaintiffs may face difficulties establishing that the owner possessed actual or constructive knowledge of the user’s previous reckless behavior or inexperience. These cases require plaintiffs to meet high evidentiary standards to prove their negligent entrustment theory.

Have You Suffered Injuries Because of Another’s Negligence?

If you or a loved one suffered injuries or died because of the negligence of another party in Indiana, you should contact Parr Richey Frandsen Patterson Kruse LLP. Our attorneys have a rich history of zealously advocating on behalf of Indiana injury victims. We understand the difficulties that negligent entrustment cases pose, and are prepared to do whatever we can to overcome these challenges. We have expertise in handling various types of personal injury lawsuits, including Indiana premises liability claims, and can help you get the compensation you deserve. Contact our office at 888-532-7766 to schedule your initial consultation with someone on our team.