§15.25 Negligent Entrustment
The Case: Ali v. Fisher , 145 S.W.3d 557 (Tenn. 2004).
The Basic Facts: Plaintiff Ali was injured when her car was struck by a car owned by Defendant Scheve but driven by Defendant Fisher. Fisher was severely intoxicated and under the influence of marijuana and Benadryl at the time of the accident. Plaintiff brought suit against Fisher and against Scheve, alleging negligent entrustment.
The Bottom Line:
- "We granted this appeal to determine whether an owner who negligently entrusted his car to another may be held vicariously liable for the driver's negligence in the operation of the car. The trial court submitted the case to the jury for allocation of fault on comparative fault principles, and the jury found the owner twenty percent (20%) at fault and the driver eighty percent (80%) at fault. The trial court later amended the judgment by holding that the owner-entrustor was vicariously liable for the negligence of the driver-entrustee and thus liable for all of the compensatory and punitive damages. The Court of Appeals held that the trial court erred in concluding that the owner‑entrustor was vicariously liable for the driver-entrustee's actions and reinstated the initial judgment. After reviewing the record and applicable authority, we conclude that an owner‑entrustor's liability for negligent entrustment does not result in vicarious liability for the negligence of the driver-entrustee and that the trial court erred in holding the owner‑entrustor liable for all the damages." 145 S.W.3d at 559.
- "[T]he argument that a negligent entrustment claim does not arise until the entrustee's negligence causes harm does not alone make negligent entrustment derivative of the entrustee's negligence.FN7
FN7 We disagree with the plaintiff's reliance on the trial court's view that vicarious liability was required under Tennessee Pattern Jury Instruction ("TPI") (Civil) 12.50, which states that '[a]n owner of a motor vehicle is legally responsible for the fault of another if' the three listed elements are present. This pattern instruction does not expressly create vicarious liability or replace the extensive instructions on comparative fault; moreover, although the TPI serve as guides for instructing the jury, they do not have the force of law. See State v. Saylor, 117 S.W.3d 239, 249 n.8 (Tenn. 2003)."Id . at 564.
Other Sources of Note: West v. East Tennessee Pioneer Oil Co. , 172 S.W.3d 545, 555 (Tenn. 2005) (noting "liability for negligent entrustment is founded upon the supplier's direct negligence in entrusting the chattel to an incompetent user. Vicarious liability, on the other hand, relies upon the supplier's right to control the chattel at the time the entrustee misuses it.").