Recreational Use

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Q: Our son was 16-years old.  His 14-year-old friend Jimmy was giving him a ride in that family’s utility vehicle on their property.  The vehicle overturned.  I understand that Jimmy was not always required to ask for permission to operate the UV.  His parents were not always so knowledgeable as to how Jimmy, when out of their presence, was operating it.

My sister has a similar UV and has shown us the manual.  “This vehicle should not be operated by anyone under the age of 16 years old.   It is not designed for recreational riding.   Young drivers may not be physically able to control the machine.  They may not be mature enough to make safe driving decisions.  Misuse and recreational riding can lead to accidents, severe bodily injury or death.”

A: Under section 388 of the Vehicle and Traffic Law, the owner of a motor vehicle may be liable for death or injuries resulting from negligence in the operation of the vehicle by any person operating it with the permission of the owner.  However, under section 125, “motor vehicle” includes only vehicles operated or driven upon a public highway.  Because the UV was on private property, section 388 cannot apply.

It appears that your only theory of liability is negligent entrustment.  A parent owes a duty to protect third parties from harm that is clearly foreseeable from the child’s improvident use of a dangerous instrument, where such use is subject to the parent’s control.  You will need to show that either (a) the parents had knowledge of some tendency on the part of their son to operate the UV in an improper or dangerous manner or (b) there was some basis for them to have knowledge.

Your position will be that the defendants could have clearly foreseen that their 14-year-old son’s recreational use of the UV could exposed others to injury.

By: Scott Baron,
Attorney at Law Advertorial

The law responds to changed conditions; exceptions and variations abound. Here, the information is general; always seek out competent counsel. This article shall not be construed as legal advice.

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