Bailment Does Not Create Liability Under Dangerous Instrumentality

Car Accidents

In the case of Kyle Lambert v. Bruce Emerson, Cases 2D18-1872 and 2D18-4103 (Fla. 2d DCA April 1, 2020), Florida’s Second DCA held that the dangerous instrumentality doctrine did not create vicarious liability for a family member who was a bailee of a vehicle and was then entrusted to another family member who caused an accident. Instead, the owner of the car was held vicariously liable under the dangerous instrumentality doctrine.

Basic Facts

Kyle Lambert caused an accident in 2015 which resulted in quadriplegia to Mr. Emerson, who was on a motorcycle. The jury found Kyle 75% responsible and that Mr. Emerson was 25% responsible for the accident itself. The total verdict was $27 million.

The car was owned by Kyle’s father but was the “daily driver” for his mother. His mother gave permission to Kyle to borrow the car before the accident.

Question Of Whether Bailment Relationship Can Create Basis For Vicarious Liability Under Florida’s Dangerous Instrumentality Doctrine

The plaintiff sued Kyle as well as his mother and father. While Kyle has liability as the driver and his father has liability as the owner under Florida’s dangerous instrumentality doctrine, what was less clear was whether Kyle’s mother (as a purported bailee) of the car could also be held legally responsible for the accident under the dangerous instrumentality doctrine.

The trial judge refused to grant a directed verdict in favor of Kyle’s mother.

On appeal, Florida’s Second DCA held that liability for Kyle’s mother as a bailee of the car was the same as that of Kyle’s father. Thereafter, the Second DCA held that Kyle’s mother could not be held responsible for the accident under these circumstances but not indicate that a bailee relationship could never create a basis for liability under the dangerous instrumentality doctrine considering that all of the parties involved in this case were family.

This is the expected legal result as the mother’s liability (for a bailment relationship) is merely duplicate of the father’s (owner’s) liability.

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April 02, 2020