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Negligent Entrustment Claim Should Have Survived Summary Judgment in Claim Brought by Family of New York Woman Killed in Scooter Accident

In a Syracuse motorcycle accident negligence lawsuit, the premise is simple: the defendant should be held legally liable to the person or family who was hurt by his, her, or its failure to act in a reasonably prudent manner. Four elements are required in order to prove negligence: duty, breach of duty, damages, and proximate cause.

In a car, truck , or motorcycle accident case, the defendant is usually averred to have breached a duty by failing to operate his or her vehicle as required by law. Speeding, distracted driving, and failure to yield are common examples of these types of claims. Sometimes, however, liability can arise in other situations.

Regardless of who is named as the defendant in a negligence lawsuit, the basic issue is, did the defendant conduct arise to a level that was unreasonable (or illegal) under the circumstances? If so, he or she can potentially be held liable for the damages incurred by the injured party or his or her family.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case that began in the Supreme Court of Columbia County, the plaintiff was the administrator of the estate of a woman who was killed in a scooter accident in 2015. The administratrix filed suit against the defendant car dealership, asserting a claim for negligent entrustment. The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment on the basis that it was not the owner of the scooter that the decedent was riding when she died. The trial court granted the defendant’s motion. The plaintiff sought further review from the New York Appellate Division, Third Department.

The Ruling of the Court

The appellate division agreed with the plaintiff that the defendant was not entitled to judgment as a matter of law. In so holding, the court pointed out that the owner of a motor vehicle such as the scooter the decedent was riding at the time of her death can be held liable on a claim for negligent entrustment in certain situations, including occasions when a reasonable owner of the vehicle in question would have known, in the exercise of ordinary care, that the person to whom the vehicle was entrusted was not competent to operate it. Here, the defendant insisted that it was not the owner of the scooter.

In finding that a genuine issue of material fact existed such that summary judgment was improper, the court pointed out that the scooter was displayed on the defendant’s front lot, that the keys were left in the scooter while it was on display, and that a helmet (which apparently went with the scooter) was kept on the premises. The defendant also insisted that a former employee who continued to volunteer at the lot (and who was not present at the time the decedent left the defendant’s lot on the scooter) was solely responsible for dealings concerning the scooter, but the court noted that a witness testified that “it looked like there was some sort of agreement” between the defendant and the decedent when the decedent came into the defendant’s building, took the helmet, and left on the scooter.

Seek Legal Advice from a Personal Injury Attorney

In most motor vehicle accident cases, the defendant is an allegedly negligent driver who caused a crash. As the foregoing case illustrates, however, there are some circumstances in which others can potentially be held liable for an accident victim’s personal injuries or the wrongful death of a family member. If you have questions about a specific situation, you should schedule a free consultation with an experienced Syracuse motorcycle accident lawyer. To get started with a free case review with the legal team of DeFrancisco & Falgiatano, LLP, call us at 315-479-9000 or use the contact form on this website. Our offices are open during the COVID-19 pandemic; we can conduct your case review via a phone conference, FaceTime, or other means, if necessary, so please do not put off talking to a lawyer about your case.

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