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Victim cannot sue equipment rental agency for negligent entrustment

Joseph Burlingame was paralyzed when Jason Brown accidentally dropped the boom of  a rented rough terrain forklift  on him drring operation.  Burlingame sued Brown for negligence, and sued Brown's mother, who rented the forklift, as well as the forklift rental owner, NationsRent, Inc.  He obtained a default judgment against Jason, who was apparently uninsured, and pursued independent actions against Mrs. Brown and NationsRent.

The lower court dismissed the claim against NationsRent, holding that NationsRent owed no duty to Burlingame.  While every person owes a duty to exercise reasonable care, and usually the determination of "reasonable care" is a question for the jury, the Court of Appeals held that NatonsRent could be responsible for negligently renting the forklift only if it had reason to know of dangerous propensities by the renter/"entrustee."  Lacking such knowledge, the Court held that NationsRent owed no duty to inquire further regarding the user's experience, training or propensities.
Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
309 East Front Street
Traverse City, Michigan 49684
Toll Free: 1-800-678-1307
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