Loaning Out Your Car? You Could Get Sued
In Tennessee, your car insurance follows along as the first and primary liability of anyone driving your car with your permission.
In some cases, there can be a personal action against the owner of the car if the owner was negligent in allowing use of the car.
If a Defendant
- entrusted the subject vehicle,
- to a person incompetent to use it,
- with knowledge that the person is/was incompetent, and
- that is/was the proximate cause of injury or damage to another.
Liability under the doctrine of negligent entrustment attaches to the vehicle’s owner for the owner’s act of entrusting the vehicle to an incompetent driver, as opposed to liability attaching vicariously to the owner for the driver’s act of operating the vehicle negligently. See Ali v. Fisher, 145 S.W.3d 557, 564 (Tenn. 2004). For a plaintiff to succeed on a claim of negligent entrustment “requires proof that a chattel [personal property like a car] was entrusted to one incompetent to use it with knowledge of the incompetence, and that its use was the proximate cause of injury or damage to another.” West v. E. Tenn. Pioneer Oil Co., 172 S.W.3d 545, 554 (Tenn. 2005) (quoting Woodson v. Porter Brown Limestone Co., 916 S.W.2d 896, 907 (Tenn. 1996)).
In West, the Tennessee Supreme Court also cited with approval the following definition of negligent entrustment:
“One who supplies directly or through a third person a chattel for the use of another whom the supplier knows or has reason to know to be likely because of his youth, inexperience, or otherwise, to use it in a manner involving unreasonable risk of physical harm to himself and others whom the supplier should expect to share in or be endangered by its use, is subject to liability for physical harm resulting to them.” West, 172 S.W.3d at 554 (quoting Restatement of (Second) of Torts § 390 (1965)).
The plaintiff must affirmatively prove that at the time of the entrustment, the entruster had “knowledge of such facts and circumstances relating to the incompetency of the entrustee to operate the motor vehicle as would charge the entruster with knowledge of such incompetency.” Harper v. Churn, 83 S.W.3d 142, 146 (Tenn. App. 2001). “Thus, persons who entrust or supply an automobile to a person known to be habitually intoxicated . . . may be held liable for the injuries proximately caused by the negligent use of the automobile . . . .” Nichols, 844 S.W.2d at 660.
Think Before Loaning Your Car
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