In Trucking Cases, Can a Claim for Negligent Entrustment,Hiring or Retention Survive Summary Judgment if the Carrier Admits Responsibility for Its Driver’s Acts and Omissions?

In Kelley v. Blue Line Carriers, 300 Ga. App. 577, 580-581 (2009), the Georgia Court of Appeals held:

“”. . . when an employer admits the applicability of respondeat superior, it is entitled to summary judgment on claims for negligent entrustment, hiring, and retention. The rationale for this is that, since the employer would be liable for the employee’s negligence under respondeat superior, allowing claims for negligent entrustment, hiring, and retention would not entitle the plaintiff to a greater recovery, but would merely serve to prejudice the employer. An exception exists for this general rule, however, where a plaintiff has a valid claim for punitive damages against the employer based on its independent negligence in hiring and retaining the employee or entrusting a vehicle to such employee. In such case, it cannot be said that the negligence claims against the employer are merely duplicative of the respondeat superior claim. Underthese circumstances, the employer is not entitled to summary judgment on the negligent entrustment, hiring, and retention claims”.

In order to support a claim for punitive damages against an employer based on its independent negligence, however, the plaintiff must present “clear and convincing evidence that the defendant’s actions showed willful misconduct, malice, fraud, wantonness, oppression, or that entire want of care which would raise the presumption of conscious indifference to consequences.””

So, in Georgia the answer appears to be No, unless punitive damages are alleged and can survive a motion for summary judgment.

 

 

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