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DRUMMOND v. WALKER

July 22, 1986

BEVERLY DRUMMOND, Plaintiff,
v.
CHARLENE WALKER, et al., Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: HARRIS

Stanley S. Harris, United States District Judge

 MEMORANDUM OPINION

 This matter is before the Court on the motion of defendants Americar Rental System (Americar) and Corporate Fleet Management, Inc. (CFM) for summary judgment. The Court finds that both of these defendants are entitled to summary judgment. *fn1"

 This action arises out of a car accident which occurred early in the morning on August 6, 1984. Plaintiff alleges that defendant Kenneth Scott, while driving a car rented from defendant Americar, fell asleep at the wheel and struck a guardrail on Route 70 near Hagerstown, Maryland. Plaintiff, a passenger in the car, suffered facial injuries in the accident.

 In Count II of her complaint, plaintiff alleges that Americar is liable for her injuries by virtue of Americar's negligent entrustment of the car to Scott. She contends that the entrustment was negligent because Scott lacked proper identification and did not possess a credit card. Plaintiff further suggests in her opposition to the instant motion that Americar was negligent in entrusting the car to Scott whom they knew to be slightly under 21 years of age. Americar has a policy of not renting to drivers under 21 years.

 In Counts III and IV, plaintiff alleges that defendants Americar and CFM are liable for her injuries through the negligent acts of their agents. Plaintiff argues that Scott and Walker were Americar's agents by virtue of the rental agreement. Plaintiff also contends that CFM, who supplies rental cars to Americar, is liable for Americar's negligence by virtue of the contract between them.

 The court concludes that summary judgment must be granted as to each of these counts. Only Count I of the complaint, alleging negligence on the parts of defendants Walker and Scott, remains.

 Count II: Negligent Entrustment

 Even if Americar's employees knew that Scott would be driving the car, that he lacked proper identification and credit, and that he was under 21 years of age, such knowledge would still be insufficient to establish a prima facie case of negligent entrustment. One liable for negligent entrustment is

 
one who supplies, directly or through a third person, a chattel for the use of another, whom the supplier knows or has reason to know to be likely because of his youth, inexperience, or otherwise, to use it in a manner involving unreasonable risk of physical harm to himself and others . . . is subject to liability for physical harm resulting . . . .

 RESTATEMENT (SECOND) OF TORTS § 390 (1965).

 Generally, negligent entrustment of a vehicle to an incompetent driver is imposed only where the owner entrusts the vehicle to one whose appearance or conduct is such as to indicate his incompetency or inability to operate the vehicle with care. In order to impose liability in other cases, where the incompetency of the driver is not apparent to the owner of the vehicle at the time of the entrustment, it must be affirmatively shown that the owner had at that time knowledge of facts and circumstances which established the incompetency of the driver. 60A C.J.S. Intrusting Vehicle to Incompetent Driver § 431(1) (1969).

 The negligent entrustment rule is considered a harsh rule because it imposes liability on an owner for the negligence of a driver over whose conduct he is unable to exercise the slightest degree of supervision or control. Bailey v. Simon, 199 So. 185 (La. Ct. App. 1940); C.J.S. supra. Its application has, therefore, been held limited to situations where the owner had knowledge that the driver did not know how to drive, Bailey, supra ; was physically or mentally incapable of operating a motor vehicle, Bailey, supra ; was intoxicated or who had the habit of becoming intoxicated, Chalmers v. Harris ...


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