What happens if a person allows a friend to drive her car and the friend has an accident? Can the owner be held liable for any injuries caused by such a collision? A Los Angeles jury recently answered "Yes" to the question and awarded $45 million in damages to four children whose mother was killed when a drunk driver crashed a friend's car into a line of waiting customers at a taco truck.
The mother and another woman were waiting in line when they were struck by a car driven by a driver who had been drinking. The owner of the car was a passenger when the collision occurred. Police investigation showed that the driver had been drinking prior to the collision and that the owner of the car was aware that the woman was drunk. Nevertheless, the woman allowed the friend to drive the car. A California Highway Patrol car attempted to stop the drunk driver, but the fatal collision occurred before the officers were able to do so.
The lawyer for the children of the dead woman argued that the driver was negligent because she drove the car while intoxicated and that the owner of the car was also negligent because she allowed her friend to operate the vehicle despite her knowledge that the friend was drunk. The jury awarded each of the four children $11.5 million in damages, for a total verdict of $45 million. Another woman was also killed in the collision, but her survivors settled with the driver and the owner, and their case was not taken to trial.
The jury found the two women to be jointly and severally liable for the death of the mother, and thus, under California law, each is liable for the entire verdict. The outcome of the case could be altered by the outcome of post-trial motions or an appeal.
Source: My News LA, "4 kids of victim awarded $45 million in taco-truck crash," Ken Stone, Sept. 2, 2016