Negligent Entrustment – Every Vehicle Owner’s Fear

Posted Monday, February 12, 2018 by Ed Harper

For one to be found responsible for the actions of another, negligently entrusting the vehicle for example requires a certain amount of knowledge leading to negligent conduct being determined. The court with Mejia v. Irwin, 45 Wn.App. 700 (1986) determined that a parent who merely rented a car for their son, would not be found responsible under the theory of negligent entrustment. The rule is quote a person entrusting a vehicle to another may be liable under a theory of negligent entrustment only if that person knew, or should have known in the exercise of ordinary care, that the person to whom the vehicle was entrusted is reckless, heedless, or incompetent. Cameron v. Downs, 32 Wn.App.875, 877 (1982).

In Mejia, a 29-year-old young man, Phillip Irwin, asked his father Felix if he could borrow Felix’s credit card to rent a vehicle. Felix agreed and rented the vehicle. The rental car company’s agent knew that Philip was to be the only user of the automobile. The plaintiffs attorney was creative and attempted to show that a poor driving history, some 11 years earlier put the father, Felix, on notice that his son was an irresponsible driver.

The young man, Philip, sadly died in this collision. Stella Mejia, as a passenger was injured and brought this claim. When Philip was a teenager he had some moving violations, and a car accident. But meanwhile his son had no tickets, and was not a bad driver, at least according to what his father knew.

The court continued that, “After some period of time, knowledge of the trustee’s previous reckless acts should have little bearing on the trustee’s present perception of the in trusted’s competence to drive at the time of the entrustment.… We recognize that the entrusted is only responsible for the subsequent negligent acts if the trustee as a reasonable man could have foreseen the negligent acts; and that when the for symptoms foreseeability of harm stems from past conduct, it must be conduct so repetitive as to make its reoccurrence foreseeable.” The court determined, “As a matter of law, Phillip’s citations and accident 11 years before the date of the alleged entrustment were too remote in time to permit the question of Felix’s alleged negligence to go to the jury.” Mejia at 705 – 706

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