Recently, a federal appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case that raised an interesting issue that may arise in Maryland motorcycle accident cases. The case presented the court with the opportunity to discuss whether the plaintiff’s negligent entrustment claim against a rental car agency was sufficient as a matter of law, based on the fact that the agency rented a vehicle to a customer who was under 25 years old in violation of company policy.
The court ultimately concluded that the fact the agency rented to an underage driver, without any other specific knowledge of the driver’s habits or predispositions, was insufficient to show that the agency should have known the customer posed a risk to others.
The Facts of the Case
The plaintiff was injured in a motorcycle accident when the driver of a Ford Mustang made a left turn in front of the plaintiff’s motorcycle, cutting him off. As it turns out, the 21-year-old driver of the Mustang had rented the car from the defendant rental car agency. The rental car agency had a policy not to rent vehicles to those under 25 years of age. However, the owner of the agency made an exception and rented the vehicle despite the customer’s age.
The plaintiff filed a negligent entrustment lawsuit against the rental car agency, claiming that the agency should be responsible for his injuries because it negligently rented the car to the underage driver.
The Court’s Analysis
The court began its analysis by explaining the elements of a negligent entrustment case, in which a plaintiff must show:
- The defendant was the owner of the vehicle;
- The defendant permitted a third party to use the vehicle;
- The defendant knew or should have known that the third party posed an unreasonable risk of harm to others;
- The third party was negligent; and
- The third party’s negligence was the cause of the plaintiff’s injuries.
The court immediately focused on the third element, noting that the remaining elements were not contested.
The court determined that the plaintiff’s evidence was insufficient to establish that the agency should have known the customer posed an unreasonable risk of harm. In so holding, the court explained that the plaintiff must show more specific evidence indicating that the driver was dangerous. For example, evidence of a poor driving history, prior DUI convictions, or knowledge that a driver took medication that compromised his ability to safely drive a car could establish the element. However, the age of a driver alone, the court held, is insufficient to establish that they may present an unreasonable risk of harm to others.
Have You Been Injured in a Maryland Motorcycle Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a motorcycle accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The dedicated motorcycle accident attorneys at the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC have extensive experience assisting victims and their families with seeking the compensation they deserve. To learn more, call 410-654-3600 to schedule your free consultation to discuss your case with an attorney.
More Blog Posts:
Establishing Liability Following a Maryland Hit-and-Run Accident, Maryland Motorcycle Accident Lawyer Blog, published March 21, 2018.
What Happens When a Bicyclist Is Partially at Fault in a Maryland Bike Accident?, Maryland Motorcycle Accident Lawyer Blog, published March 6, 2018.