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Negligent Entrustment–When An Owner Of A Dangerous Item Is Liable To A Victim


When you injure someone else, you usually do or fail to do something that is careless–something that another person in the same situation would have done differently. But there’s one legal theory where someone can be liable for another person’s injuries, even where they didn’t do anything at all–at least, they didn’t do anything actively.

Negligent Entrustment

The legal theory is called negligent entrustment. In plain language, it simply means that someone can be liable for your injuries, if they trusted someone else with something that they should not have been trusted with.

Put another way, someone creates the condition that leads to your injury, by trusting someone else with something that could be dangerous. The operative question is whether the owner could have or should have reasonably foreseen that the person who caused the injury was going to cause an injury, given that person’s background, age, condition or some other factor.

Examples of Entrustment

One typical example of negligent entrustment, is where someone causes an injury in a vehicle that is owned by someone else.

The owner, if he or she knew that the driver was using the car, and allowed the driver to use the car, may have negligently trusted the driver to be using the car, if there was something about the driver that the owner should have known made the driver potentially dangerous (such as perhaps having a poor prior driving record).

This often happens when companies rely on third party companies to do things in the homes of its customers, such as installers. If the company hires installers and doesn’t do a criminal background check, and those installers then injure a customer while inside the customer’s home, the store may be liable under a negligent entrustment theory.

The same would hold true, if those installers caused a car accident while driving to their job. If the store should have known that the installers were not safe drivers, or had a poor driving record, the law allows the victim to hold the business responsible for trusting the installers to drive carefully, or to use the company van or car.

Anything that would make a reasonable person doubt that someone else should be using something, or doing something can lead to liability under negligent entrustment. For example, allowing (even a licensed) teenager to drive a car at night could be negligent entrustment, as teenagers tend not to be the most responsible people, and driving at night can be difficult for newer drivers.

Gun Liability

Injuries caused by guns can lead to negligent entrustment theories. When people allow someone else to use, or access firearms, the owner of the gun can be liable, even though the owner didn’t use the gun, or pull the trigger. Simply allowing someone to use or have the gun who shouldn’t have been able to do so, is enough for civil liability on behalf of the gun’s owner.

Who is liable for your injuries, or your accident? Call the Tennessee personal injury attorneys at Fox Willis Burnette, PLLC, today for help.

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