SW Legal Educational Publishing

Auto Repair Shop Not Liable for Returing Repaired Car to Drunk Driver
Description Drunk driver stopped at a repair shop and had some simple repairs performed. After paying and leaving, the drunk driver killed another driver in an accident. Negligence suit by decedent's heirs dismissed. Repair shop had a duty to return bailed auto to bailor once work was finished.
Topic Torts
Key Words Negligence, Bailment, Conversion
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts While intoxicated, Butzen stopped at defendant's shop for some repairs on his car. Defendant repaired the car. Butzen paid, left the shop, and soon caused a fatal car accident while driving under the influence. Plaintiff (heir) sued the repair shop. Plaintiff claimed that the defendant's negligent return of the car keys to an obviously drunk Butzen provided "substantial assistance or encouragement" in his drunk driving. Trial court dismissed the case, holding that the defendant owed no duty to plaintiff's decedent to prevent Butzen from driving. Plaintiff appealed.
Decision Affirmed. Butzen drove his car to the repair shop. Had the shop refused to provide repairs, Butzen could have driven away, so it did not encourage Butzen's driving. In general, "a bailee for hire is not liable for returning the property to the bailor." Had defendant refused to let Butzen have his car, "it would have been liable for conversion." "Other courts, faced with similar factual scenarios, have held that one cannot be liable for returning bailed property to its rightful owner."
Citation Umble v. Sandy McKie and Sons, Inc., Slip Copy (1998 WL 28150, App. Ct., Ill.)
690 N.E.2d 157 (Ct. App., Ill., 1998)

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