Articles Tagged with DUI

Negligent entrustment is an issue that frequently arises in car accident cases. The basic idea is that if the defendant “entrusts” his own vehicle to someone who subsequently injures a third party, the third party can seek damages against the defendant if he had “actual knowledge that the driver is incompetent or habitually reckless,” according to a 2010 decision by the Georgia Court of Appeals. So, for example, if you loan your car to someone you know has a history of drunk driving, and that person proceeds to get drunk and plow your car into a minivan, the passengers in the minivan can sue you under the theory of negligent entrustment.

Cullara v. Building & Earth Sciences, Inc.

The Court of Appeals recently addressed the applicability of negligent entrustment in another case where the defendant disputes whether it had actual knowledge of a driver’s recklessness.

In a Georgia car accident case, a negligent driver may be liable for punitive damages if there is “clear and convincing evidence” of “willful misconduct, malice, fraud, wantonness, oppression, or that entire want of care which would raise the presumption of conscious indifference to consequences.” For example, if the negligent driver was driving under the influence of alcohol at the time of the accident, that would provide evidence of “willful misconduct” justifying a punitive damages award.

Dagne v. Schroeder

However, drunk driving is not the only thing that might lead a jury to award punitive damages. A recent Georgia case helps illustrate this point. This plaintiffs in this case were a mother and daughter who were driving home. The defendant was driving in the opposite direction on the same road. Witnesses observed the defendant “swerved within her lane and continuously sped up and slowed down.” At one point she swerved directly into the path of the plaintiffs’ vehicle. The mother tried to avoid the collision but failed. The vehicles collided, sending the plaintiff’s van into the air where it “tumbled several times after hitting the ground before finally coming to a rest upside down.”