Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Summary Judgment Secured on Negligent Entrustment Claim


In the case of Jones v. Ritchie, No. 4983-Civil-2019 (C.P. Monroe Co. June 28, 2021 Williamson, J.), the court granted a defendant-owner’s motion for summary judgment on a negligent entrustment claim arising out of a motor vehicle accident matter.

In this case, the plaintiff had sued a number of parties, including the person who had rented a rental car and who had then allowed the defendant driver to operate the vehicle during which trip that driver rear-ended another vehicle.  At the time, the person who had rented the car and the driver who as in the accident were in a boyfriend-girlfriend relationship.

According to the Opinion, before the subject accident, the defendant driver had a prior conviction for a DUI, of which the party who had rented the vehicle was aware. 

The record before the Court also revealed that the renter of the car was also aware that, around the time of the accident, the defendant driver was taking methadone to address addiction issues. In fact, the renter of the car had allowed the defendant driver to utilize the vehicle on the day of the accident because driver was going to her methadone clinic for treatment.

In addition to suing the defendant driver and the rental car company, the plaintiff filed a negligent entrustment claim against the party who had rented the vehicle and then let the defendant driver drive the vehicle. 

The party who had rented the car filed a motion for summary judgment on the negligent entrustment claim.

After reviewing the current status of the law of negligent entrustment, the court ruled in favor of the person who had rented the car and asserted that there was no evidence that the defendant driver had just taken methadone or was on any other drugs or alcohol at the time of the accident. Nor was there any evidence that the cause of the accident was due to any methadone medication used by the driver. 

Additionally, the court stated that there was no evidence stated or presented by the plaintiff that would show that the defendant driver was a bad driver, or that on the date of the accident the defendant driver was in a condition that would make her unable to operate a vehicle in a safe manner, or that such was known to the defendant lessor.

In the end, the court stated that there was no evidence to show that the defendant who had rented the car would have had any reason to know or have any actual knowledge of the fact that allowing the defendant driver to operate the vehicle would give rise to an unreasonable risk of harm to others.

Rather, based upon the facts of the case, under which the plaintiffs were caused to come to an abrupt stop on the roadway due to traffic ahead, after which the defendant driver could not stop in time and contacted the rear of the plaintiff’s vehicle, it appeared to the court that this accident occurred due to simple human error.

As such, the court granted the defendant who had rented the car summary judgment on the negligent entrustment claims asserted against him.

Anyone wishing to review a copy of this decision may click this LINK.



Note:  I was the defense counsel for the defendant who rented the car and who allowed the defendant driver to drive the vehicle.  Anyone who may wish to review my Motion for Summary Judgment and Supporting Brief may contact me at dancummins@comcast.net.


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