The Doctrines of Vicarious Liability, Negligent Entrustment, and Respondeat Superior

One of the most critical decisions that must be made early on in a Maryland personal injury case is which parties to name as defendants and which claims to pursue. This is particularly important in Maryland truck accidents because truck drivers are frequently working at the time of the accident. Thus, the circumstances of a truck accident often mean that a truck driver’s employer and the owner of the truck should also be considered as potential defendants.

Under Maryland law, there are several theories of liability that may come into play in truck accident cases. A recent case discusses two commonly conflated claims, and illustrates why they are unique from one another.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was killed in a motorcycle accident when a truck driver attempted to make an improper left turn as the plaintiff approached the intersection. The truck driver was working at the time of the crash, and was later found to be under the influence of prohibited prescription medication.

The plaintiff filed several claims against the employer of the truck driver. First, the plaintiff claimed that the employer was liable for the truck driver’s negligent actions based on the theory of respondeat superior. The doctrine of respondeat superior allows for an injury victim to hold a negligent party’s employer liable for their injuries if the actions that gave rise to the plaintiff’s injuries were within the scope of the employment. Importantly, a plaintiff does not need to establish that a defendant employer was negligent to succeed on a respondeat superior claim because liability is premised on the relationship between the employer and the employee rather than on the employer’s actions.

Additionally, the plaintiff claimed that the employer was liable under the theory of negligent entrustment. In this claim, the plaintiff argued that the employer was negligent for allowing the truck driver to operate a large and potentially dangerous vehicle. Negligent entrustment claims require the plaintiff show that the defendant was negligent in placing a “dangerous instrumentality,” i.e., a vehicle, in a third-party’s care.

The defendant employer admitted that the employee was acting within the scope of his employment, and then argued that because of this admission it could not be liable under a negligent entrustment theory. However, the court rejected the employer’s argument, explaining that the two theories are separate and distinct. The court explained that employers who are alleged to have hired “unfit and unqualified drivers cannot insulate themselves from a negligent entrustment claim simply by stipulating that the employee driver was acting in the course and scope of employment.”

Have You Been Injured in a Maryland Truck Accident?

If you or someone you love has recently been injured in a serious Maryland truck accident, you may be able to recover compensation for the injuries or losses you have sustained. The dedicated Maryland personal injury lawyers at the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen, LC have extensive experience representing injury victims and their families in truck accident cases across Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. We also provide free consultations to meet with prospective clients and discuss their situation. To learn more, call 410-654-3600 to schedule your free consultation today.

More Blog Posts:

What Is an Insurance Guaranty and How It Can Help Maryland Accident Victims Recover for Their Injuries?, Maryland Trucking Accident Lawyer Blog, published October 17, 2018.

Liability in Maryland School Bus Accidents, Maryland Trucking Accident Lawyer Blog, published October 3, 2018.

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