Court Limits Truck Owner’s Liability, Finding that He Loaned Truck to At-Fault Driver

Under Florida’s dangerous-instrumentality doctrine, a vehicle owner who entrusts his or her vehicle to another person who negligently causes an accident can be held liable for any injuries. Essentially, this doctrine holds the owners of dangerous instrumentalities – including motor vehicles – liable when they loan the vehicle to another person who causes an accident. Importantly, there does not need to be any showing that the vehicle owner was negligent in loaning the vehicle to the at-fault driver.Florida law limits an owner’s liability under the dangerous-instrumentality doctrine to $100,000. A recent case in front of a Florida appellate court illustrates how a non-negligent owner can be held liable for injuries, up to the statutory maximum, under the dangerous-instrumentality doctrine.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs were the parents of a woman who was killed when she was rear-ended by a truck that was driven by one defendant and owned by another defendant. Both of the defendants were present in the truck at the time of the accident. The owner of the truck had previously been driving but asked his passenger to take over control of the truck while he took a nap in the back.

The case went to trial, and the jury determined that the two defendants were 60% at fault, and the plaintiffs’ daughter was 40% at fault. In a post-trial motion, the truck owner sought to limit his liability based on the statutory maximum for liability under the dangerous-instrumentality doctrine. The plaintiffs argued that the owner did not loan the driver the vehicle because the owner was present with the driver at the time of the accident. Instead, the plaintiffs claimed that the owner was in a “joint venture” with the driver and that the statutory limit did not apply. The trial court agreed with the plaintiffs and denied the truck owner’s motion to limit his liability.

On appeal, the court reversed the trial court’s decision and found that the truck’s owner should only be liable for the $100,000 statutory maximum. The court explained that there was nothing in the statute that limited a “loan” to situations in which the owner was not present in the vehicle. The court considered the definition of “loan” and looked at previous case-law, deciding that since the owner “relinquished temporary control of the vehicle while maintaining his ownership interest,” he essentially loaned the truck to the driver while he rested in the back.

As a result of this ruling, the defendant truck owner’s liability will be limited to $100,000; however, the plaintiff will still be able to collect from the truck driver, subject to insurance limitations.

Have You Been Injured in a South Florida Truck Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a South Florida truck accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. Depending on the circumstances surrounding the accident, there may be more than one liable party, which can drastically increase your chances of fully recovering compensation for your injuries. To learn more about Florida truck accident law, and to discuss your case with a dedicated personal injury attorney, contact the South Florida personal injury law firm of Friedman, Rodman & Frank at 877-448-8585 to schedule a free consultation.

More Blog Posts:

Errant Golf Ball Strikes Baby in Stroller on Nearby City-Owned Walking Path, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published June 5, 2017.

Who Is Responsible in Florida When Someone Causes an Accident Using a Borrowed or Stolen Car?, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published June 19, 2017.

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