Negligent Entrustment in Georgia

In a recent case a former employee of an equipment company was driving a company vehicle to work when he collided with Linda Roper’s car. He worked for the equipment company as a forklift technician. His driver’s license had been suspended twice for DUI convictions. Initially, he was not allowed to drive the company vehicle because of the second conviction. Three years later, however, he got a restricted driving permit and was cleared to drive for the company. A 2007 MVR showed he had a restricted driver’s permit and the number of years on it. His driving privileges were subsequently restored.
After that, his company assigned him a company van. The company allowed technicians to take these vans home because they could be put on a service call at any point. However, the vans were to be used only for company purposes. On the morning in question, the defendant left his home and drove toward the office. He failed to yield to oncoming traffic at a stop sign and struck Roper’s car.
Roper sued the equipment company, alleging it was vicariously liable for the former employee’s actions and also directly liable to her for negligent entrustment of the company vehicle.
The equipment company moved for summary judgment on the vicarious liability claim. It reasoned the worker was acting outside the scope of employment, and there was not enough evidence to support the other claims. The trial court denied the motion.
The equipment company appealed, contending the employee clearly had not been acting in the course and scope of his employment. It also argued that the evidence did not support the negligent entrustment claim. The appellate court agreed.
The company contended that the evidence showed the employee was on the way to work and not acting on behalf of the company. It also argued that, since he was not in the course and scope of employment at the time, the negligent hiring claim also failed.
The appellate court explained that the legal test in this type of situation is whether the servant (employee) was at the time acting within the scope of employment and on the employer’s business. The employer’s liability has to be analyzed under the Georgia Supreme Court’s rules. In this type of case, there is a presumption that an employee was acting in the course and scope of employment at the time of the collision, and the employer has the burden to overcome the presumption by presenting undisputed evidence that showed he was not acting in the course and scope of his job.
An employer deserves summary judgment at that point, unless there is other evidence presented from which a jury could infer he acted within the course and scope of his job. If the other facts are direct evidence, the case could go to a jury. But the case should not reach a jury if the other evidence is circumstantial, unless there was so much circumstantial evidence that it could support a plaintiff’s verdict.
In this case, the man was driving the company van, and so the presumption of course and scope applied. However, he hadn’t started to work at that time, which rebutted the presumption. The burden was on the plaintiff to provide another fact to show that he was acting in the scope of his job. The plaintiff did not present that evidence. Therefore, the employer was entitled to summary judgment on vicarious liability and negligent hiring.
Negligent entrustment is based on an owner’s negligence in lending a car to someone with actual knowledge of the driver’s habitual negligence. The court affirmed the court’s denial of the summary judgment  as to negligent entrustment.
If you are hurt or a loved one is killed due to negligence, you may be able to recover compensation for your losses. Experienced Atlanta personal injury attorney Terrence R. Bethune can evaluate your case and fight for any compensation you may deserve. Contact us at 404-875-7800 or via our online form.
More Blog Posts
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Proximate Cause in Georgia Car Accidents, February 13, 2014
Tandem Driving Theory of Liability in Georgia Car Accidents, February 4, 2014

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