Can a Parent Be Sued For Allowing a Child and Friend to Use a Snowmobile or Other Motorized Vehicle If Injuries Result?

When the Owner or Person In Control of a Potentially Dangerous Object, Such As a An Automobile, Boat, Equipment, or Even a Gun, Allows An Unqualified or Untrained Person to Use the Object and Harm to Another Person Results, a Lawsuit May Be Brought Against the Owner For Negligent Entrustment.

Understanding Negligent Entrustment Principles Involving Unreasonable Provision of Access to Dangerous Objects

Negligent Entrustment Principles Involving the Unreasonable Provision of Access to Dangerous Objects In the circumstances where a person who owns, possesses, or controls, a potentially dangerous object, such a person may be held legally liable for the tort of negligent entrustment where such a person unreasonably permits another person to use or operate the potentially dangerous object and an incident occurs resulting in harm to a third party person.

The Law

The tort of negligent entrustment was well explained in the case of Persaud v. Bratanov, et al, 2012 ONSC 5232, wherein it was said:

[41]  Allegations of negligent entrustment have two broad components, namely: (1) proof that the entruster was negligent in entrusting what later became the instrumentality of the damages to the entrustee; and (2) proof that the entrustee was negligent in his or her use of the instrumentality in causing the damages suffered by the plaintiff.  See: Unger v. Unger (2003), 2003 CanLII 57446 (ON CA), 68 O.R. (3d) 257 (C.A.) at para. 25-27; Perkull v. Gilbert, 1993 CanLII 583 (BC SC), [1993] B.C.J. No. 1078 (S.C.) at para. 14.  The rationale is that when someone supplies a chattel to another, whom the supplier knows or has reason to know is likely, as a result of his or her youth, inexperience or recklessness, to use the chattel in a manner involving an unreasonable risk of harm to others, that supplier should be liable for the harm caused by the negligence of the person entrusted with the chattel.  See: Schulz v. Leeside Developments Ltd., 1978 CanLII 1976 (BC CA), [1978] B.C.J. No. 1319 (C.A.) at para. 21.

[42]  Cases of negligent entrustment usually arise, as in this case, out of the entrustment of an automobile.  In such cases, the judicial authorities suggest that all of the following five elements must be established for liability:

(1)  An entrustment of the chattel by its owner to the entrustee;

(2)  The entrustee was incompetent, inexperienced or reckless;

(3)  The entruster knew or ought to have known of the entrustee’s condition or proclivities;

(4)  The entrustment created an appreciable risk of harm to the plaintiff and a coincident relational duty of care on the part of the defendant/entruster; and

(5)  The entrustee’s negligence was the proximate or legal cause of the damages suffered by the plaintiff.

As per the Persaud case, negligent entrustment, generally, involves the provision of an automobile or another type of potentially dangerous object such as a snowmobile (see: Perkull v. Gilbert, 1993 CanLII 583School Division of Assiniboine South No. 3 v. Hoffer et al., 1970 CanLII 882, a watercraft (see: Schulz v. Leeside Developments Ltd., 1978 CanLII 1976; (liability unfound), a farm implement, a gun, a firework, among other things, that are entrusted to an underage person or an unqualified person.

It takes very little forethought to recognize and appreciate that fireworks, being explosive objects, present a significant risk of causing injury or causing damage; and accordingly, the law of negligent entrustment provides that a parent who allows a child to set off fireworks or provides a child with access to fireworks may be deemed liable if improper use of the fireworks causes injuries or damage to another person.  This situation arose in the case of Tse v. Binns, 2014 ONSC 2091, wherein it was said:

[12]  The liability of Joel Binns would be hard to contest. Based on the available evidence and the Statement of Claim, he caused the lit firecracker to strike Eugene Tse in the left eye. The only allegation, in the Statement of Claim, directed at Michael Binns is that he allowed his son to purchase fireworks, when he knew this was dangerous and failed to provide his son with proper warnings and education on how to safely and properly use them. In the absence of any evidence reflecting on Joel Binns, his relationship with his father, the communication between them and anyone suggesting that Michael Binns did not owe a duty of care to Eugene Tse, I am obliged to and do accept that Michael Binns shares in the liability of his son in respect of the injuries suffered by Eugene Tse.

Summary Comment

The tort of negligent entrustment involves liability upon an owner, or person in control, of a dangerous object that arises from the unreasonable permission granting use or operation of the dangerous object to an underage, unqualified, or otherwise irresponsible, person.


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