Negligent Entrustment, Wrongful Death case settles for $1.1 Million policy limits
Author: Attorney Jason Macri
A young man has died unnecessarily. Unfortunately, innocent people die every single day in car crashes that could be avoided. This story is no different. A 19 year-old young man with his entire life ahead of him was killed when his friend, also 19, decided to take the wheel of his father’s convertible after a night of drinking. The young driver almost immediately began to operate the convertible in a dangerous and reckless manner, speeding and swerving. The driver eventually lost control of the vehicle and struck a light pole, the vehicle then spun several times before careening into a nearby business. Our client’s son, the young backseat passenger, was ejected from the convertible and died almost instantly.
It was later determined that the teenaged driver of the convertible had been out illegally drinking alcohol that night and, after arriving back home from some bars, decided it would be a good idea to take his father’s convertible for a joyride. We later learned that the young driver had an atrocious driving record, having been cited for an array of traffic citations in the short period of time in which he held a valid driver’s license. He was such a dangerous driver, in fact, that his parents decided to remove him from their auto insurance policy and have him specifically excluded as a driver. When a Wrongful Death claim was made against the parents’ auto insurance policy, the insurance company immediately rejected the claim and cited the exclusion as the reason for the denial.
We made the argument that, although the young driver was specifically excluded from his parents’ auto insurance policy, the parents were still liable under the negligent entrustment theory. Under Florida’s negligent entrustment laws, the owner of an automobile who voluntarily entrusts the vehicle to an individual who causes damage to others through the negligent operation of the vehicle can be held liable for damage caused by that driver. Here, we had a classic negligent entrustment case. The parents were well aware of the fact that their young son was a danger to others and had an atrocious driving record. This is evidenced by the fact that they removed him for their policy and had him specifically excluded as a driver under their policy. Something they failed to do, however, was ensure that their son would not have easy access to their vehicles and would not then drive those vehicles and endanger others. The parents could have taken steps to ensure that their son would not get a hold of their vehicles but they essentially did nothing. They allowed their young drunken son to take their convertible out for a spin and endanger others in the process. Unfortunately, an innocent young man died because of the parents’ negligence and nothing can be done to bring him back.
No amount of money can ever be used to replace a human being. Our client, the mother of the innocent, deceased young man, suffers every single day and misses her son deeply. Her pain will never subside. She will think of him every day of her remaining life and will cry for him on the majority of those days. Considering this, 1.1 Million dollars is a pittance. 100 Million dollars wouldn’t be enough. She would rather have her son back. This case is less about compensation for a grieving mother and more about trying to prevent another needless death. Parents need to know that they can be held liable for the negligent acts of their children if the act can be prevented. Here, the parents of the young driver could have simply refused to give him the car keys. They could have gone out of their way to ensure that their young, irresponsible son would never take the wheel of their vehicle. If they had done so, this crash probably would not have happened and our client’s young son would still be alive today.