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Negligent Entrustment Theory of Liability Does Not Extend Beyond Vehicle Owners
Description Drunk man called his father to bring him spare keys to his car, which the father did. The son and his passenger were soon in a fatal accident. Father could not be held liable for the death of his son’s passenger under the theory of negligent entrustment.
Topic Torts
Key Words Negligent Entrustment, Intoxication
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Witty was a passenger in a car owned and driven by 20-year-old Knight. The two had been drinking during the evening when they stopped at a store to buy cigarettes. When Knight locked his keys in the car, he called his father to bring him a spare key, which his father did. Knight and Witty then left and were soon in an accident in which Witty was killed. His heirs sued Knight’s father for negligent entrustment for delivering vehicle keys to his intoxicated son. Trial court granted the father summary judgment. Witty’s estate appealed.
Decision Affirmed. Liability under a negligent entrustment theory includes only the owners of vehicles. It does not include non-owners who provide the keys and control over an automobile to another who may be too intoxicated to drive. Further, even if negligent entrustment extended to Knight’s father, the condition of the younger Knight should have been equally obvious to Witty, who was at least as negligent for riding with an intoxicated driver.
Citation Coble v. Knight, —S.E.2d— (1998 WL 548986, Ct. App., N.C.)
503 S.E.2d 703 (Ct. App., N.C., 1998)

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