Florida has many navigable bodies of water, and many people throughout the state own boats. It is not uncommon for boat owners to lend their crafts to other people to enjoy without a second thought. When a person operating a borrowed boat acts carelessly, though, it can result in unintended consequences for the owner, including potentially the imposition of liability. In a recent Florida opinion, a court discussed the grounds for holding a boat owner liable for negligent entrustment in a case in which a person suffered critical injuries while riding as a passenger in a borrowed boat. If you suffered injuries in a boating accident, it is in your best interest to speak to a trusted Florida personal injury attorney to determine your possible claims.
The Boating Accident
Allegedly, on a summer afternoon, the plaintiff, the driver, and another friend when riding on a boat owned by the defendant. The driver suddenly and unexpectedly turned the boat, causing the plaintiff to fall off. The plaintiff’s right leg suffered severe wounds, and his right hand was almost completely severed. The driver was arrested and charged with stealing the boat and died by suicide prior to trial.
It is reported that the plaintiff then filed a negligent entrustment claim against the defendant, arguing that he should be liable for the plaintiff’s harm for carelessly allowing the driver to use his boat. Following discovery, the defendant moved to have the plaintiff’s claims dismissed via summary judgment.
Liability for Negligent Entrustment Under Florida Law
Under Florida law, a boat owner can be held liable for negligent entrustment for allowing a person the owner knows is likely to operate the boat in a manner that poses an unreasonable risk of harm to himself and others. In other words, a boat owner can only be held accountable for negligent entrustment if he or she knows or should know that the person driving the boat lacks the ability to do so safely.
The Florida courts define entrustment as giving someone something in trust or with a certain level of confidence regarding the care the person will use with the item. Thus, the court explained that in order for the plaintiff to defeat the defendant’s motion, he was required to show that the defendant delivered the boat to the driver’s custody and care. The court found that the only evidence that would support the plaintiff’s negligent entrustment claim was inadmissible hearsay under the Federal Rules of Evidence; however, while the defendant submitted an affidavit stating he never gave the driver the permission to use his boat. As such, the court granted the defendant’s motion.
Meet with a Seasoned Florida Attorney
Collisions involving watercraft can cause devastating harm that leads to lifelong impairment, and the people responsible for causing such crashes should be held accountable. If you were hurt in a boating accident, you may have a viable claim for damages, and it is prudent to speak to a lawyer about your rights. The dedicated Florida personal injury attorneys of Lusk, Drasites & Tolisano, P.A. have the skills and resources needed to help you seek a successful result, and if you hire us, we will advocate aggressively on your behalf. You can reach us via our form online or at 800-283-7442 to set up a meeting.