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Recent decision may limit liability in some drunk driving cases

The Texas courts issued a decision recently that could limit the liability of car owners when they loan their vehicles to other individuals who operate them while intoxicated.

In G & H Towing v. Magee, the adult children of a couple killed by a drunk driver in a borrowed car sued the owner of the car for damages on a theory of negligent entrustment. The plaintiffs alleged that the owner had been negligent in allowing the vehicle to be used in a dangerous manner.

The car's owner, William Colson, worked with the driver, Joseph Violante, on a tugboat where the two men alternated shifts lasting several days. Because their shifts would often begin and end in different locations, Colson and Violante frequently loaned one another their vehicles to return home after work. One day, however, Violante also used Colson's car to stop by the bar, where he became drunk, later going on to cause a collision that killed two people.

The court held that Colson was not liable for damages relating to the crash because he had no direct knowledge of Violante's inclination to drive drunk. Further, the court state that a vehicle owner has no obligation to investigate the driving record of someone wishing to borrow the vehicle, so long as he or she is properly licensed.

Although this ruling may make it more difficult for drunk driver injury victims to recover from the owners of borrowed vehicles in cases where the driver's propensity for drunk driving was not previously known, vehicle owners may still be liable to injured parties in other situations.

In Texas, a person who is injured by the driver of a borrowed vehicle may be able to recover damages from the vehicle's owner on a theory of negligent entrustment by establishing each of the following elements:

- The vehicle was entrusted to the driver by its owner
- The driver was unlicensed, incompetent or reckless
- The owner know, when entrusting the vehicle, that the driver was unlicensed, incompetent or reckless
- The driver was negligent on the particular occasion in question
- The driver's negligence caused the injury

If you or someone close to you has been injured in an accident involving a drunk driver, it is very important that you speak to an experienced personal injury attorney right away. An attorney can help you understand your legal rights and explore the possibility of pursuing financial compensation for your injuries.

An attorney can help you understand your legal rights and explore the possibility of pursuing financial compensation for your injuries

by S. C.
01 january 2012, World News > America

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