Tort Law

Vicarious Liability Auto

This page within Virginia Tort Case Law is a compilation of cases reported by the Virginia Supreme Court and summarized by Brien Roche dealing with the topic of Vicarious Liability Auto.  

2006 Dreher v. Budget Rent-A-Car Sys., Inc., 272 Va. 390, 634 S.E.2d 324.

In this auto accident case, trial court should have applied New York contract law since the involved vehicle was rented under a contract entered into in New York. New York imposes vicarious liability on a vehicle owner for injuries caused by permissive user. The Virginia conflicts principle requires that New York law be applied since the vehicle was rented there.

2002 Interim Pers. of Cent. Va., Inc. v. Messer, 263 Va. 435, 559 S.E.2d 704.

Motorist was injured when her vehicle was struck from rear by driver who was intoxicated and driving pick-up truck he had stolen from University Alumni Association. Defendant driver was employed by temporary staffing agency which had provided defendant driver to association. Defendant driver was working with the Alumni Association on part-time basis. While so employed, he stole vehicle from Alumni Association. At all times relevant, driver did not have valid operator’s permit. He had been convicted of DWI on two prior occasions and in January 1996, prior to this accident, was declared to be habitual offender by DMV. Driver had misrepresented his status to Interim. Interim did not do criminal background check or request copy of valid operators license or copy of DMV record. Mere proof of failure to investigate potential employee’s background is not sufficient to establish employer’s liability for negligent hiring. In this case, plaintiff failed to establish that it should have been foreseeable that driver posed threat to others for purposes of this negligent hiring claim. Driver’s employment history showed he had been model employee. Fact that he had been convicted for driving under influence and declared habitual offender would not place reasonable employer on notice that driver, while drunk, would steal association’s truck and operate it during non-business hours for his own frolic. Trial court erred in ruling that foreseeability was jury issue and in refusing to sustain motion to strike of Interim and Alumni Association.

1972 Dalton v. Lawrence, 212 Va. 530, 186 S.E.2d 90.

Contributory negligence of driver cannot be imputed to passenger in passenger’s action against driver of following vehicle.

1968 Breeding v. Johnson, 208 Va. 652, 159 S.E.2d 836.

Proof that auto was owned by defendant creates rebuttable inference or presumption that auto was being operated by defendant or someone for him under circumstances making him liable therefor.

1966 Thomas v. Wingold, 206 Va. 967, 147 S.E.2d 116.

Mother asked son to return her vehicle to her but told son not to drive it himself since he was not licensed. Son had to take over driving since his friend who had been driving was under influence. Jury question presented as to whether son was agent of mother.

1960 Turner v. Burford Buick Corp., 201 Va.693, 112S.E.2d 911.

Defendant admitted that car was owned by defendant and that driver was salesman for defendant. This established prima facie case of agency.

1958 Ashworth v. Baker, 197 Va. 582, 90 S.E.2d 860.

Plaintiff asked friend to drive her to destination. Plaintiff had no right to control or direct her friend’s activities, he was not her agent or servant. Her friend’s negligence, if any, was no bar to her recovery.

1953 Wolfe v. Lockhart, 195 Va. 479, 78 S.E.2d 654.

Dispute as to who was driving. If passenger was driving then he was acting as Lockhart’s agent and movement of vehicle was at Lockhart’s suggestion and under his direction.

1952 MacGregor v. Bradshaw, 193 Va. 787, 71 S.E.2d 361.

Mere sharing of driving does not create agency relationship.

1950 McNeill v. Spindler, 191 Va. 685, 62 S.E.2d 13.

Defendants admitted that driver was employed by them and there was therefore rebuttable presumption that at time of accident, truck was being driven in their service; but this presumption would disappear in face of positive facts to contrary.

1949 Ransone v. Pankey, 189 Va. 200, 52 S.E.2d 97.

It is well settled in Virginia that negligence of driver of vehicle in which guest passenger is injured, cannot ordinarily be imputed to passenger and cannot be invoked as defense by joint tortfeasor. Exception is in case of joint ventures.

1949 Via v. Badanes, 189 Va. 44, 52 S.E.2d 174.

Owner of motor vehicle dismissed as defendant, as plaintiff conceded not able to prove driver was agent of owner.

1948 Flanagan v. Kellam, 187 Va. 754, 48 S.E.2d 69.

Doctrine of respondeat superior does not apply where son is driving mother’s car solely for his own pleasure.

1947 Lumberman’s Mut. Cas. v. Indemnity Ins. Co., 186 Va. 204, 42 S.E.2d 298.

Owner of auto is not liable for negligence of another simply because such negligent party was operating car with his permission.