Negligent entrustment laws are a body of laws involving personal injury, negligence, and tort laws.  They cover injuries that result when an employer places a dangerous item or instrument in the care of an employee, whose conduct and handling of the item causes injury to another party. 

Perhaps the most common example of a negligent entrustment violation is where a supervisor allows an employee to drive the company car.  If a third party is injured by the employee driving the car, it may be possible to file a negligent entrustment lawsuit.  Usually, it’s necessary to prove that the employer shouldn’t have entrusted the employee with the property (or had reason to know that they should not have granted the employee access to the property). 

Negligent entrustment may also happen in other relationships, such as a principal-agent relationship, not just employer/employee relationships.  Also, negligent entrustment laws overlap heavily with other types of laws such as vicarious liability laws, respondeat superior concepts, and some criminal law.

Is Negligent Entrustment the Same Thing as Vicarious Liability?

Not exactly- vicarious liability has more to do with the employer authorizing the employee to perform certain actions, which may cause harm to a third party.  In vicarious liability, the focus is more on the conduct of the employee while they are doing work “on the clock”.  It also focuses more on the employer’s direct authorization of the worker’s tasks.

In contrast, negligent entrustment has more to do with the employer allowing the employee to use property or equipment that they really shouldn’t be handling.  Negligent entrustment usually results when the employer makes a wrong decision about the capabilities, abilities, skills, capacities, or certification of a worker. 

What are Some Examples of Negligent Entrustment?

Some examples of negligent entrustment are when the employer negligently lets the worker use:

  • A vehicle, such as a company car, boat, bicycle, motorcycle, or aircraft
  • A dangerous or deadly weapon, like a handgun, security gun, taser, etc.
  • Heavy equipment, such as a crane or forklift-like device

These examples are especially easy to prove if the employee didn’t have the proper training, licensing, certification, or experience to use the items.  Also, even if the employee did have the proper licensing, negligent entrustment can be found if the employee had a reputation of handling such property in a dangerous way.

Who Can Be Held Liable for Negligent Entrustment?

In most cases, it is the employer who is being held responsible for negligent entrustment.  This is because they are the actor who is “entrusting” the worker with the property or item.  It usually needs to be shown that the employer or supervisor breached their duty of care to the third party by allowing the employee to handle the equipment.

In some cases, the employee can also be held liable for the victim’s injuries.  This is especially true if the employee knew that they weren’t qualified to take on the task or equipment, yet proceeded to do so anyway.  In some cases, both the employer and the worker can be held liable for negligent entrustment under joint liability principles. 

Remedies for negligent entrustment usually involve a damages award paid from the defendant to the victim, to reimburse them for losses caused by the injury.

Do I Need to Hire a Lawyer for Help With Negligent Entrustment Laws?

Filing a negligent entrustment lawsuit may be necessary if you’ve been injured through the negligence of an employee or their employer.  You may wish to hire qualified personal injury attorney for help with your legal issues.  Your attorney can provide you with solid legal advice regarding your injuries, and can also represent you in court if you need to file a claim with for your losses.