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Be Careful Who You Trust: Understanding the Tort of Negligent Entrustment

One of the most surprising areas of personal injury law for many people are the various ways that injuries caused by one party can be legally attributed to another. Sometimes, this can be intuitive, such as suing an employer for the careless act of an employee. However, the law can also hold people responsible for the acts of others when there is a much more attenuated relationship. One such relationship occurs in the context of “negligent entrustment,” where one person, the entrustor, negligently provides another person, the entrustee, with a dangerous item such as a firearm or motor vehicle, despite knowing that the entrustee should not have access to the item, and someone gets injured as a result.

What Negligent Entrustment Is

The Florida Supreme Court has adopted a standardized definition of negligent entrustment used by many courts around the country. Negligent entrustment occurs when”:

“[a person] supplies . . . 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.”

While that definition may seem dense, it can actually be broken down into a two easy parts. First, a person must “supply” a chattel, a piece of personal property such as a car, to another. Supply can mean a variety of things including sell, rent, or lend. Second, that person who provides the property must do so despite knowing or having reason to know that the person they are giving the property to might endanger themselves or other people with it. Although that risk of danger can arise for any number of reasons, the most common include giving the property to someone who is too young to handle it or to someone who does not have the necessary skill or experience.

An Example Case

These sorts of legal principles can often become more clear with examples. A Florida court recently decided a negligent entrustment case involving a jet ski. The case involved three friends, two men and a woman, who were riding a pair of jet skis owned by one of the friend’s parents. The man whose parents owned the jet skis was a more experienced rider, and he trained his friend on the operation of the second jet ski, with the woman riding as a passenger. The woman had no experience, and was not given any training on the jet ski. Nevertheless, the friend allowed the woman to operate the jet ski, and the experienced rider did not object. While taking the jet skis home, the woman crashed into a dock, suffering serious injuries. She then brought a lawsuit against the more experienced rider, arguing that he negligently entrusted her with the jet ski despite knowing of her lack of experience. The court ultimately sided with the woman, ruling that it was in fact negligent entrustment.

If you have been injured by the careless act of another, contact a Florida personal injury attorney today. The attorneys at Pike & Lustig, LLP can help ensure that everyone involved is held responsible for their negligence.

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