In many Florida injury lawsuits, plaintiffs must prove the defendant is negligent. That means proving defendant owed a duty of care to plaintiff, defendant breached that duty, the breach caused plaintiff’s injuries and the injuries are compensable. However, there are some situations in which one need not prove the defendant was negligent. One can assert vicarious liability for the negligent actions of another person. There are several examples, but one of those stems from ownership of a dangerous instrumentality.
The dangerous instrumentality doctrine is one that stems from common law and it holds that the owner of an inherently dangerous tool is liable for any injuries resulting from the operation of that tool. It’s a form of strict vicarious liability. In Florida, the 1938 state supreme court case of Southern Cotton Oil Co. v. Anderson resulted in the finding that motor vehicles are a type of dangerous instrumentality. That’s why an owner of a motor vehicle in Florida can be held liable for injuries caused by someone else’s negligent operation of said vehicle. The idea is that if you trust someone with a motor vehicle with knowledge and consent, you are responsible if it’s used negligently on a public road.
But there are questions that arise occasionally about what other objects may be considered a dangerous instrumentality. It matters a great deal when we’re considering which persons or entities can be liable. One such case recently before Florida’s 2nd District Court of Appeal was that of Newton v. Caterpillar et al, stemming from a work injury. Continue reading →