Elements of Nevada's Theories of Liability

Negligent Entrustment

Negligent Entrustment

Elements

Under this doctrine [of negligent entrustment], a person who:

  1. knowingly entrusts
  2. a vehicle
  3. to an inexperienced or incompetent person, such as a minor child unlicensed to drive a motor vehicle,

may be found liable for damages resulting thereby
Zugel by Zugel v. Miller, 100 Nev. 525, 527, 688 P.2d 310, 313 (Nev. 1984).

Example Cases

Proof

Damages

Defenses

  • Negligence entrustment does not apply to a bailee/bailor relationship

The negligent entrustment theory of tort liability does not apply to the normal bailor-bailee relationship since the bailee is duty bound to surrender control of the car to the bailor upon demand or suffer a possible penalty for conversion. Indeed, if the bailee refuses to return the car at the end of the bailment it is presumed that the car was converted by him. Donlan v. Clark, 23 Nev. 203, 45 P. 1 (1896); Manhattan Fire & Marine Ins. Co. v. Grand Central Garage, 54 Nev. 147, 9 P.2d 682 (1932), quoting the Donlan case with approval. Here, the bailment ended when Lewis appeared at the parking lot to reclaim possession of his car and paid for the parking services. At that moment the bailee lost his right to control the car. Although the negligent entrustment theory may apply where one who has the right to control the car permits another to use it in circumstances where he knows or should know that such use may create an unreasonable risk of harm to others, it does not apply when the right to control is absent.
Mills v. Continental Parking Corp., 86 Nev. 724, 725-26, 475 P.2d 673, 674 (Nev. 1970).

  • Existence of past accidents does not necessarily render the driver incompetent or negligent

Even if American had actual knowledge of Mary Ann’s alleged driving infractions, and if all the allegations were accurate, they would, as a matter of law, be insufficient to evoke against American the theory of negligent entrustment of the vehicle to Mary Ann. Curley v. General Valet Service, Inc., 270 Md. 248, 311 A.2d 231 (1973). SeeFambro v. Sparks, 86 Ga.App. 726, 72 S.E.2d 473, 480 (1954) (evidence that driver had had two accidents prior to being entrusted with the automobile could not authorize a conclusion that the driver was incompetent); Parrish v. Yeiser, 41 Tenn.App. 690, 298 S.W.2d 556, 560 (1955) (“The mere statement that a person has been involved in an automobile wreck is proof of neither negligence nor incompetence as a driver.”); cf. Mayer v. Johnson, 148 S.W.2d 454, 457 (Tex.Civ.App.1941) (one incident of violating traffic regulation insufficient to raise issue for jury).
Cooke v. American Sav. & Loan Ass’n, 97 Nev. 294, 296, 630 P.2d 253, 254 (Nev. 1981).

Misc

  • Elements; Parents may be liable even if they limit their consent

A second possible theory of liability in this case is that of “negligent entrustment” of a motor vehicle. Under this doctrine, a person who knowingly entrusts a vehicle to an inexperienced or incompetent person, such as a minor child unlicensed to drive a motor vehicle, may be found liable for damages resulting thereby.FN2 See, e.g., McCart v. Muir, 230 Kan. 618, 641 P.2d 384 (1982); Sedlacek v. Ahrens, 165 Mont. 479, 530 P.2d 424 (1974); see also Connell v. Carl’s Air Conditioning, 97 Nev. 436, 634 P.2d 673 (1981) (doctrine of negligent entrustment held not to apply under particular facts of case). See generally 7A Am.Jur.2d Automobiles and Highway Traffic §§ 643- 45 (1980). Under this theory of liability, the entrusting person need not have known that the motor vehicle was going to be driven on a public roadway. See, e.g., Sedlacek v. Ahrens, supra. In fact, a parent who entrusts his child with a motor vehicle may be found liable under a theory of negligent entrustment even when the parent expressly instructs the child not to use the vehicle on a public roadway. Id. The key elements are whether an entrustment actually occurred, and whether the entrustment was negligent.FN3 See McCart v. Muir, supra 641 P.2d at 389.
Zugel by Zugel v. Miller, 100 Nev. 525, 527, 688 P.2d 310, 313 (Nev. 1984).

  • Motorcycles are subject to the tort of negligent entrustment

Contrary to respondents’ contention, entrustment of a motorcycle may come within the purview of the doctrine of negligent entrustment of a motor vehicle. See, e.g., Sedlacek v. Ahrens, infra; see also NRS 483.090 (defines “motor vehicle” as including “every vehicle which is self-propelled”).
Zugel by Zugel v. Miller, 100 Nev. 525, 527, 688 P.2d 310, 313 (Nev. 1984).

    In the present case, Tilley had no control of the plane. The keys were in Carter’s possession at all times. Tilley merely admitted Carter and his friends to the terminal and fueled the plane. Regrettably, the tragic crash occurred 45 minutes later near Ash Meadows, Nevada. However, to impose civil liability on Hughes Tool Company, on the theory that Tilley had a duty to prevent Carter’s takeoff and that Tilley’s failure to do so was the proximate cause of Wiggins’s death is incomprehensible. Therefore, the order granting summary judgment is affirmed.
    Wiggins v. Hughes Tool Co., 87 Nev. 190, 193-94 484 P.2d 566, 568-69 (Nev. 1971).

      Higgins, the employee, purchased the vehicle before accepting employment with Carl’s and title was held in Higgins’ name. There was no showing that Carl’s had any control over the vehicle or did any more than facilitate its financing. The doctrine of negligent entrustment does not extend to one who neither entrusts nor places a vehicle with another, see Drake v. Morris Plan Company of California, 53 Cal.App.3d 208, 125 Cal.Rptr. 667 (1975) (no liability on part of one who financed sale of automobile to allegedly incompetent driver), or to one who has no right to control the vehicle. Mills v. Continental Parking Corp., 86 Nev. 724, 475 P.2d 673 (1970).
      Connell v. Carl’s Air Conditioning, 97 Nev. 436, 440, 634 P.2d 673, 675 (Nev. 1981).

        Absent an independent ground for liability, i.e., agency liability, negligent entrustment, or some statutorily created liability, a Nevada motor vehicle owner is not per se vicariously liable in tort for the negligence of a permissive user.

        Hall v. Enterprise Leasing Company-West, 122 Nev. 685, 137 P.3d 1104 (Nev. 2006).

          Borgerson also argues that Patricia is vicariously liable for David’s acts because of her duty under the parent-child relationship. This court has only recognized the vicarious liability of a parent for a child’s acts in cases of motor vehicle ownership FN14 or negligent entrustment of motor vehicles FN15 when the child is a minor. Furthermore, there is no evidence that Patricia had any modicum of control over her twenty-nine-year-old son.

          Borgerson v. Scanlon, 117 Nev. 216, 221, 19 P.3d 236, 239 (Nev. 2001).

            Likewise, in negligent entrustment cases, the majority’s reasoning would eliminate the cause of action on grounds that it is the action of the party to whom the instrumentality of harm is negligently entrusted who causes the harm rather than the one who negligently entrusts the instrumentality to someone unsuited to the trust.
            Snyder v. Viani, 110 Nev. 1339, 1346, 885 P.2d 610, 615 (Nev. 1994)(dissent).

              Appellant bases his argument for recovery on three grounds: negligent entrustment, entrustment of an unsafe and dangerous instrumentality in the form of a motor vehicle, and providing unsafe equipment in conjunction with negligent entrustment. We find none of these theories persuasive. Appellant suggests that his three stated causes of action are separate and unrelated to the ownership, maintenance, operation or use of the motor vehicle. However, we conclude that in each instance there is a sufficient nexus between the acts of Charles W. Gregory and the ownership, maintenance, operation and use of the motorcycle to fall within the exclusion of respondent’s homeowner’s policy.

              . [2] Appellant first contends that the homeowner’s policy must apply because of the insured’s negligent entrustment of the motorcycle to his son. However, this act relates to the ownership of the motorcycle and the contractual right of the owner to permit others to use the vehicle under the protection of the vehicle liability policy. It is expressly excluded from coverage of the homeowner’s policy.
              Senteney by Senteney v. Fire Ins. Exchange 101 Nev. 654, 707 P.2d 1149 Nev.,1985.