Court Permits Plaintiff’s Negligent Entrustment Claim to Proceed Against Employer

Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case discussing the doctrine of negligent entrustment. The doctrine allows for an accident victim to hold the owners of certain “dangerous instrumentalities” responsible when the owner negligently places the instrumentality in the control of a third party, who then causes injury to the accident victim.

The court ultimately concluded that the plaintiff could proceed with a claim that argued that the defendant employer negligently entrusted a semi-truck to an employee that subsequently caused an accident, resulting in the plaintiff’s death. In New Mexico, courts have explicitly recognized the doctrine of negligent entrustment in New Mexico car accident cases.

The Case Facts

The plaintiff was killed when his vehicle was struck by a semi-truck being operated by an employee of the defendant employer. The truck driver was later found to be under the influence of a prescription painkiller that he was prescribed after an on-the-job accident. The specific drug in the truck driver’s system was banned by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations.

The plaintiff filed a wrongful death case against the employer, making two different claims. The first claim was based on the theory of respondeat superior, under which an employer can be held liable for the negligent acts of an employee.

The plaintiff’s second claim was brought under a theory of negligent entrustment. Specifically, the plaintiff claimed that the defendant employer was negligent in allowing the employee to drive a semi-truck when the employer should have known that the employee was prescribed the banned medication.

The defendant employer admitted that the employee was acting within the scope of his employment at the time of the accident, and argued that such an admission precluded it being liable under a theory of negligent entrustment. The court, however, disagreed and allowed the plaintiff’s case to proceed under both theories.

The Negligent Entrustment Doctrine in New Mexico

In New Mexico car accident cases, plaintiffs may be able to pursue a claim of negligent entrustment against the owner of a vehicle who entrusts a vehicle to an incompetent driver. Under the negligent entrustment doctrine, the focus of the inquiry is on the owner’s actions, rather than the drivers. More specifically, courts consider whether the owner knew or should have known that the person they allowed to use the vehicle “intends or is likely to use the thing or to conduct himself … in such a manner as to create an unreasonable risk of harm to others.”

Have You Been Injured in a New Mexico Truck Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a New Mexico truck accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The dedicated New Mexico truck accident attorneys at the Fine Law Firm have decades of experience handling a wide range of New Mexico truck accident claims, and have a firm understanding of the numerous theories of liability that can be used to recover for their clients. To learn more, and so schedule your free consultation today, call 505-889-FINE.

More Blog Posts:

Uninsured Motorist Insurance Coverage and New Mexico Hit-and-Run Accidents, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, October 1, 2018.

Court Discusses What Happens in the Event an Insurance Company Becomes Insolvent, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, October 19, 2018.