On June 22, 2020, attorneys Kevin S. Taylor, Jorge A. Martinez and Zachary D. Rutman won a motion for summary adjudication that dismissed claims that their client negligently entrusted a company-owned vehicle to its employee. Summary adjudication motions are rarely granted on negligent entrustment claims, so this ruling may be of interest to employers throughout California. 

The central issues in this case arise from an employee’s personal use of a company-owned vehicle. More specifically, this motion highlights a plaintiff’s burden of proof when claiming that an employer knew or should have known that its employee was incompetent or unfit to drive a vehicle. 

In this case, an employee was driving a company-owned vehicle home with his son in the passenger seat late at night after a family gathering. The employee entered an S-curve on the roadway at a high rate of speed, lost control and flipped the vehicle. His son was partially ejected and rendered paraplegic. 

The son sued the driver’s employer for negligence-vicarious liability and negligent entrustment. Plaintiff alleged that the employer knew or should have known that the employee was unfit to drive the vehicle. 

Taylor | Anderson meticulously uncovered evidence throughout the course of the case that established that the employee was a safe and responsible driver. And Plaintiff failed to prove that the employee was an unfit driver. Despite contrary arguments from his counsel, Plaintiff even conceded at deposition that he did not blame the employee for the accident. 

After reviewing the evidence and hearing the parties’ arguments, the Court granted the employer’s motion for summary adjudication, which effectively dismissed Plaintiff’s negligent entrustment claim. This motion was a significant victory because it narrows the issues for trial. Now, the jury will only hear evidence related to whether the employee was driving in the course and scope of his employment at the time of the accident.  

Taylor | Anderson also filed a motion to bifurcate the course and scope issue from liability-apportionment of fault and damages. The motion to bifurcate will be heard on September 17, 2020.