Federal District Court Applies Massachusetts Law to Deny Summary Judgment in Negligent Entrustment Case

Having an insurance policy that covers accidents caused by uninsured or underinsured motorists is important. Without such coverage, it is extremely difficult – often impossible – to receive fair compensation for personal injuries or a wrongful death caused by a driver who either doesn’t have insurance at all or who has only minimum coverage.

Unfortunately, simply having “UM/UIM” (as it is called in the insurance industry) does not mean that there will not be protracted litigation before the case is finally settled. Consequently, it is important to consult an attorney if you have been involved in a Cape Cod car accident, even if you have uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage in place.

Facts of the Case

In a case recently considered by a federal district court sitting in Massachusetts, the plaintiff was an insurance company, acting as the subrogee of its insured (who was covered by an uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance policy), who was involved in a car accident in 2016. According to the plaintiff’s complaint, the accident was caused by the negligence of the defendant motorist, who was allegedly issued a citation for failure to yield the right-of-way to the plaintiff’s insured. At the time of the crash, the motorist was driving an automobile owned by her father-in-law, the defendant vehicle owner. The plaintiff alleged that the vehicle owner had negligently entrusted the automobile to the defendant motorist and that this negligence had contributed to the cause of the accident. The defendant vehicle owner filed a motion for summary judgment.

The Court’s Decision

The United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts denied the defendant vehicle owner’s motion for summary judgment. Before beginning its analysis, the court reiterated the familiar rule that summary judgment is only appropriate in situations in which there are no genuine disputes as to any material fact. When this happens, the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. However, if there is evidence to support the nonmoving party’s case, the matter should proceed towards trial, rather than be resolved via summary judgment.

Here, there was evidence that the defendant motorist had been involved in at least two or three prior accidents while driving the same vehicle as in the case currently being litigated, that she had received numerous traffic citations, and that she had informed the defendant vehicle owner that the car she was driving at the time of the accident was too big for her. In a negligent entrustment case pursued under Massachusetts law, the party seeking to recover money damages against the other must be able to prove that he or she entrusted the vehicle to someone who was incompetent or unfit, that the owner gave the driver permission to drive the vehicle, and that the owner had actual knowledge of the driver’s incompetence or unfitness to operate the car in question. Although the defendant vehicle owner argued that the plaintiff could not prove the necessary elements, the district court disagreed, noting that a poor driving record, along with a sufficient pattern of negligence, could be used to infer a driver’s incompetency. In denying summary judgment, the district court agreed with the plaintiff that there was a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the defendant motorist’s driving record sufficiently displayed the pattern of negligence required in a negligent entrustment case.

Call a Knowledgeable Car Accident Attorney in Cape Cod

Seeking a fair monetary recovery following a traffic accident caused by a negligent driver can be a tedious process. Regardless of whether the insurance company that will ultimately be paying out on a claim is a traditional motor vehicle accident liability insurer or an insurance company that issued a policy of uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, the injured party can expect a fight. To put an effective legal advocate to work advocating for your side of the case, call the experienced Cape Cod car accident litigation team at the Law Offices of John C. Manoog III. You can phone us at 888-262-6664 or reach us through this website. We look forward to learning more about your situation and explaining how we can be of service to you.

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