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Lenders Beware (NJ)

February 20, 2020

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<p style="text-align: justify;">According to a recent New Jersey decision, an owner or lessee of a motor vehicle can be liable to an injured third-party if he negligently entrusts said vehicle to a friend or relation who causes the accident with the third-party.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">In <a href=""><em><a href="">McKeown v. Capavanni</a></em></a>, the plaintiff was injured by a golf cart operated by the defendant’s, Capavanni, 82 year old father-in-law.  Capavanni was an experienced golfer and operator of golf carts and had leased a golf cart from the country club.  The New Jersey Appellate Division stated that regardless of any contract entered into between the club and Capavanni, Capavanni nonetheless had a common law duty to refrain from entrusting the golf cart to an incompetent operator.  On appeal, in determining whether this common law duty had been breached, the appellate division found ample evidence that Capavanni’s father-in-law, who was from Scotland, and in the United States for only the second time, was unfamiliar with using golf carts.  Testimony revealed that in Scotland, it was not common to use a golf cart.  Further, Capavanni testified that he did not believe his father-in-law had ever operated a golf cart.  The appellate division therefore held there was a disputed issue of fact regarding Capavanni's father-in-law's competence to operate the cart.  Thus, the court overruled the trial court’s grant of summary judgment to Capavanni.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">This case illustrates that the law of negligent entrustment is not limited to motor vehicles; it applies to virtually any piece of machinery that can cause harm.  Thus, as lending machinery to a relative or friend is commonplace, one should think twice before lending a piece of a machinery to a person who is unfamiliar with its use, as this could result in liability to the lender.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">Thanks to Mike Noblett for his contribution to this post.  Please email <a href="">Colleen E. Hayes</a> with any questions.</p>


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