Another big win for MSZL&M’s Maryland Office!
November 17, 2020
Sandra T. Carson of MSZL&M’s Maryland office obtained summary judgment on behalf of a large local car dealership group in a personal injury action arising out of a collision involving a loaner vehicle it had rented to one of its customers. Plaintiff’s car was struck nearly head-on when our client’s vehicle crossed a double-yellow line and entered plaintiff’s lane. Plaintiff, who required mechanical extraction from his vehicle, suffered multiple broken bones and other injuries, which kept him from his work as a union electrician for several months.
Plaintiff brought suit against the driver of our client’s vehicle, who was not the customer who had rented the vehicle, and against our client as the owner of the car. Plaintiff alleged the defendant driver was an agent, servant or employee of the dealership group. Plaintiff claimed that our client was vicariously liable for the driver’s negligence, that it had negligently entrusted the vehicle to the co-defendant and that it had also negligently hired codefendant. Ms. Carson filed a motion for summary judgment accompanied by evidence that the driver was not an agent, servant or employee of the dealership. Further, Ms. Carson was able to establish that the dealership had no knowledge of or information about the driver and that the dealership had not given the driver possession of the car or authorized him to operate the vehicle. Instead, the dealership rented the car to the individual who was a passenger in the car at the time of the accident through an agreement that did not identify any additional authorized drivers.
Plaintiff asked the Court to deny the motion on the grounds that additional discovery was necessary to explore the issue of any potential agency relationship between the dealership and the customer who rented the car, whether the dealership had given “off the record” approval for other individuals to operate the car, and whether there might have been a mechanical defect in the car. At hearing, Ms. Carson successfully argued that because the claims against our client were based solely on liability arising out of an agency relationship with the driver and direct entrustment of the car to the driver, no additional discovery was required. Ms. Carson also argued that the discovery sought by plaintiff was unrelated to the causes of action set out in the Complaint. In issuing its ruling from the bench, the Court found that our evidence was undisputed and that nothing in the record supported any reasonable inference that an agency or employment relationship existed between our client and the driver. The Judge described plaintiff’s request for discovery as “fishing” and granted the motion, dismissing all claims against our client.