Massachusetts Court Explains Evidence Needed to Prove Negligent Entrustment

It is not uncommon for people to allow friends or family members to borrow their cars. What may seem like a simple favor can unintentionally expose people to liability, however. In other words, if the person borrowing the vehicle is subsequently involved in a collision, the owner of the vehicle may be deemed liable for negligent entrustment. Merely lending a car to a person is not sufficient to prove a negligent entrustment claim, though, as demonstrated in a recent Massachusetts ruling. If you were injured in a car accident with a driver using a borrowed car, you might be able to pursue claims against multiple parties, and you should speak to a knowledgeable Massachusetts personal injury lawyer as soon as possible to determine your options

The Underlying Accident

It is determined that the plaintiff was involved in a car accident with the defendant driver. She suffered severe injuries in the accident and ultimately filed a lawsuit against the defendant driver and the owner of the vehicle she was operating at the time of the accident, who was her father-in-law. Specifically, the plaintiff filed a negligent entrustment claim against the defendant owner, arguing that he knew or should have known she could not safely operate the vehicle. The defendant owner then filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the plaintiff would be unable to prove her negligent entrustment claim and, therefore, it should be dismissed.

Proving a Negligent Entrustment Claim

In Massachusetts, negligent entrustment is comprised of three elements. First, the plaintiff must show that the owner of a vehicle lent it to a person who was unfit or incompetent to drive, and the person’s incompetence caused the plaintiff’s injuries. The plaintiff must then show that the owner either generally or specifically granted the person permission to drive the vehicle. Finally, the plaintiff has to prove that the owner possessed actual knowledge of the incompetence of the driver.

In the subject case, the defendant argued that the plaintiff could not reasonably expect to prove negligent entrustment. The court noted, however, that a poor driving record accompanied by a sufficient record of lawlessness or recklessness could be used to infer the incompetence of a driver. The plaintiff argued that the evidence clearly established that the defendant driver’s record clearly demonstrated a pattern of negligence, in that she was involved in two to three other accidents prior to the subject collision. Additionally, she testified that on more than one occasion, she told the defendant owner the vehicle was too big for her. Based on the foregoing, the court denied the defendant’s motion.

Meet with a Dedicated Personal Injury Attorney

Car accidents can cause lasting and painful injuries, and in many cases, more than one party is responsible for the injured person’s harm. If you were injured in a car accident, it is in your best interest to meet with a lawyer. Dedicated personal injury attorney James K. Meehan can assess the circumstances surrounding your harm and advise you of your potential claims. You can contact us through our online form or at 508-822-6600 to set up a conference.