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Court Permits Car Accident Plaintiff to Proceed with Both Respondeat Superior and Negligent Entrustment Theory

Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case discussing whether a plaintiff could pursue a respondeat superior claim as well as a negligent entrustment claim against an employer based on an employee’s negligent conduct. The case is important to Florida car accident victims because it elucidates the differences between two common claims that are often believed to be identical but are, in fact, different.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s recitation of the facts, the plaintiff was riding a motorcycle when he was struck by a truck that made an improper left turn in front of the plaintiff. The plaintiff died as a result of the collision. The truck driver was later found to have been under the influence of a prescription narcotic that was banned by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations.

The plaintiff filed a multi-claim wrongful death case against the truck driver’s employer. The plaintiff claimed that the employer was liable for the truck driver’s negligence under the theory of vicarious liability. In addition, the plaintiff contended that the employer was liable under the doctrine of negligent entrustment.

Vicarious Liability, Respondeat Superior, and Negligent Entrustment

Vicarious liability is a legal doctrine that allows an accident victim to hold a third-party responsible for the negligent acts of another. Vicarious liability claims do not require the plaintiff present evidence that the defendant was negligent. One of the most common types of vicarious liability is an employer’s liability for the negligent acts of an employee, also known as respondeat superior. Another example would be holding parents responsible for the negligent actions of their children.

Negligent entrustment is a theory of primary liability, meaning that the claim does not rely upon the negligence of a third party, but instead on the negligence of the defendant. Negligent entrustment claims must be premised on the entrustment of a “dangerous instrumentality,” such as a vehicle. A negligent entrustment claim, unlike a claim of respondeat superior, requires some evidence that entrusting the vehicle to the third-party driver was negligent.

Back to the Case

The defendant employer argued that because it was admitting that the truck driver was acting within the scope of his employment at the time of the accident, it could not be held primarily liable under a theory of negligent entrustment. The court, however, disagreed, explaining that the two causes of action are different and that employers who hire “unfit and unqualified drivers cannot insulate themselves from a negligent entrustment claim simply by stipulating that the employee driver was acting in the course and scope of employment.”

Have You Been Injured in a Florida Car Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Florida car accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation for the injuries you have sustained through a Florida personal injury lawsuit. At the South Florida law firm of Friedman Rodman & Frank, we represent injury victims in all types of claims, including Florida car accidents. We have decades of experience serving Florida injury victims and their families, and are proud of the results we have been able to obtain for our clients. To learn more, call 877-448-8585 to schedule a free consultation today.

More Blog Posts:

Court Discusses Personal Injury Plaintiff’s Evidentiary Burden at the Summary Judgement Stage, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published October 18, 2018.

Florida Personal Injury Victims and the Importance of Being Careful When Settling a Case, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published October 4, 2018.

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