South-Western Legal Studies in Business

Negligence of Drunk Driver Outweighs Negligence of Vehicle Owner Who Let His Friend Drive Drunk
Description South Carolina high court held that when the owner of a car let his drunk friend drive the car, the owner was negligent, but the driver’s negligence was greater than that of the car owner. Consequently, there could be no recovery under modified comparative negligence, and to allow recovery would also violate public policy.
Topic Torts
Key Words Negligent Entrustment; Public Policy; Comparative Negligence
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Mitchell Lydia was intoxicated when Steve Horton allowed him to borrow his car. Lydia was in a single-car accident that left him quadriplegic. Lydia sued Horton for first party negligent entrustment, contending that Horton should have recognized that Lydia was too drunk to be trusted with a car. The trial court held that Lydia’s negligence outweighed Horton’s negligence, so there could be no recovery. Lydia appealed and the court of appeals reversed in his favor. Horton appealed.

Reversed. Modified comparative negligence, and public policy, bars an intoxicated adult’s recovery on a first party negligent entrustment cause of action. Under modified comparative negligence, if the plaintiff is more than fifty percent negligent there can be no recovery. Public policy is not served by allowing an intoxicated adult to maintain a suit for injuries that resulted from his own conduct.

Citation Lydia v. Horton, --- S.E.2d --- (2003 WL 21648592, Sup. Ct., S.C., 2003)

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