California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI)

724. Negligent Entrustment of Motor Vehicle


[Name of plaintiff] claims that [he/she] was harmed because [name of defendant] negligently permitted [name of driver] to use [name of defendant]’s vehicle. To establish this claim, [name of plaintiff] must prove all of the following:

1. That [name of driver] was negligent in operating the vehicle;

2. That [name of defendant] [owned the vehicle operated by [name of driver]/had possession of the vehicle operated by [name of driver] with the owner’s permission];

3. That [name of defendant] knew, or should have known, that [name of driver] was incompetent or unfit to drive the vehicle;

4. That [name of defendant] permitted [name of driver] to drive the vehicle; and

5. That [name of driver]’s incompetence or unfitness to drive was a substantial factor in causing harm to [name of plaintiff].


New September 2003; Revised December 2009

Directions for Use

For a definition of “negligence,” see CACI No. 401, Basic Standard of Care.

Sources and Authority

  • Vehicle Code section 14606(a) provides: “No person shall employ or hire any person to drive a motor vehicle nor shall he knowingly permit or authorize the driving of a motor vehicle, owned by him or her or under his or her control, upon the highways by any person unless the person is then licensed for the appropriate class of vehicle to be driven.”
  • Vehicle Code section 14607 provides: “No person shall cause or knowingly permit his child, ward, or employee under the age of 18 years to drive a motor vehicle upon the highways unless such child, ward, or employee is then licensed under this code.”
  • Vehicle Code section 14608(a) provides, in part: “No person shall rent a motor vehicle to another unless: [¶] . . . [t]he person to whom the vehicle is rented is licensed under this code or is a nonresident who is licensed under the laws of the state or country of his or her residence.”
  • “ ‘ “[I]t is generally recognized that one who places or entrusts his [or her] motor vehicle in the hands of one whom he [or she] knows, or from the circumstances is charged with knowing, is incompetent or unfit to drive, may be held liable for an injury inflicted by the use made thereof by that driver, provided the plaintiff can establish that the injury complained of was proximately caused by the driver’s disqualification, incompetency, inexperience or recklessness . . . .” ’ ” (Flores v. Enterprise Rent-A-Car Co. (2010) 188 Cal.App.4th 1055, 1063 [116 Cal.Rptr.3d 71].)
  • “A rental car company may be held liable for negligently entrusting one of its cars to a customer. . . . In determining whether defendant was negligent in entrusting its car to [the driver], defendant’s conduct is to be measured by what an ordinarily prudent person would do in similar circumstances.” (Osborn v. Hertz Corp. (1988) 205 Cal.App.3d 703, 709 [252 Cal.Rptr. 613], internal citations omitted.)
  • “Liability for negligent entrustment is determined by applying general principles of negligence, and ordinarily it is for the jury to determine whether the owner has exercised the required degree of care.” (Allen v. Toledo (1980) 109 Cal.App.3d 415, 421 [167 Cal.Rptr. 270], internal citations omitted.)
  • “A claim that an employer was negligent in hiring or retaining an employee- driver rarely differs in substance from a claim that an employer was negligent in entrusting a vehicle to the employee. Awareness, constructive or actual, that a person is unfit or incompetent to drive underlies a claim that an employer was negligent in hiring or retaining that person as a driver. (See Judicial Council of Cal. Civ. Jury Instns. (2011) CACI No. 426.) That same awareness underlies a claim for negligent entrustment. (See CACI No. 724.) In a typical case, like this, the two claims are functionally identical.” (Diaz v. Carcamo (2011) 51 Cal.4th 1148, 1157 [126 Cal.Rptr.3d 443, 253 P.3d 535].)
  • “[I]f an employer admits vicarious liability for its employee’s negligent driving in the scope of employment, ‘the damages attributable to both employer and employee will be coextensive.’ Thus, when a plaintiff alleges a negligent entrustment or hiring cause of action against the employer and the employer admits vicarious liability for its employee’s negligent driving, the universe of defendants who can be held responsible for plaintiff’s damages is reduced by one—the employer—for purposes of apportioning fault under Proposition 51. Consequently, the employer would not be mentioned on the special verdict form. The jury must divide fault for the accident among the listed tortfeasors, and the employer is liable only for whatever share of fault the jury assigns to the employee.” (Diaz, supra, 41 Cal.4th at p. 1159, internal citation omitted.)
  • “[O]rdinarily, in the absence of a special relationship between the parties, there is no duty to control the conduct of a third person so as to prevent him from causing harm to another and . . . this rule applies even where the third person’s conduct is made possible only because the defendant has relinquished control of his property to the third person, unless the defendant has reason to believe that the third person is incompetent to manage it.” (Grafton v. Mollica (1965) 231 Cal.App.2d 860, 863 [42 Cal.Rptr. 306].)
  • “[T]he tort requires demonstration of actual knowledge of facts showing or suggesting the driver’s incompetence—not merely his lack of a license. . . . For liability to exist, knowledge must be shown of the user’s incompetence or inability safely to use the [vehicle].” (Dodge Center v. Superior Court (1988) 199 Cal.App.3d 332, 341 [244 Cal.Rptr. 789], internal citations omitted.)
  • “Knowledge of possession of a temporary permit allowing a person to drive only if accompanied by a licensed driver is sufficient to put the entrustor ‘upon inquiry as to the competency of’ the unlicensed driver. . . . It is then for the jury to determine under the circumstances whether the entrustor is negligent in permitting the unlicensed driver to operate the vehicle.” (Nault v. Smith (1961) 194 Cal.App.2d 257, 267–268 [14 Cal.Rptr. 889], internal citations omitted.)
  • “[E]ntrustment of a vehicle to an intoxicated person is not negligence per se. A plaintiff must prove defendant had knowledge of plaintiff’s incompetence when entrusting the vehicle.” (Blake v. Moore (1984) 162 Cal.App.3d 700, 706 [208 Cal.Rptr. 703].)
  • “[T]he mere sale of an automobile to an unlicensed and inexperienced person does not constitute negligence per se.” (Perez v. G & W Chevrolet, Inc. (1969) 274 Cal.App.2d 766, 768 [79 Cal.Rptr. 287].)
  • “It is well-settled that where a company knows that an employee has no operator’s license that such knowledge is sufficient to put the employer on inquiry as to his competency; it is for the jury to determine under such circumstances whether the employer was negligent in permitting the employee to drive a vehicle.” (Syah v. Johnson (1966) 247 Cal.App.2d 534, 545 [55 Cal.Rptr. 741].)
  • “[I]t has generally been held that the owner of an automobile is under no duty to persons who may be injured by its use to keep it out of the hands of a third person in the absence of facts putting the owner on notice that the third person is incompetent to handle it.” (Richards v. Stanley (1954) 43 Cal.2d 60, 63 [271 P.2d 23], internal citations omitted.)
  • “[T]he mere fact of co-ownership does not prevent one co-owner from controlling use of the vehicle by the other co-owner. Thus, where . . . plaintiff alleges that one co-owner had power over the use of the vehicle by the other and that the negligent co-owner drove with the express or implied consent of such controlling co-owner, who knew of the driver’s incompetence, the basis for a cause of action for negligent entrustment has been stated.” (Mettelka v. Superior Court (1985) 173 Cal.App.3d 1245, 1250 [219 Cal.Rptr. 697].)

Secondary Sources

6 Witkin, Summary of California Law (10th ed. 2005) Torts, §§ 1221–1226

California Tort Guide (Cont.Ed.Bar 3d ed.) Automobiles, § 4.38

Haning et al., California Practice Guide: Personal Injury, Ch. 2(II)-B, Liability Arising From Operation Of Motor Vehicle, ¶ 2:1040 (The Rutter Group)

Croskey et al., California Practice Guide: Insurance Litigation, Ch. 7D-D, Liability Based On Negligent Entrustment, ¶ 7:1332 (The Rutter Group)

2 Levy et al., California Torts, Ch. 20, Motor Vehicles, § 20.21 (Matthew Bender)

8 California Forms of Pleading and Practice, Ch. 82, Automobiles: Causes of Action, § 82.11 (Matthew Bender)

2 California Civil Practice: Torts § 25:47 (Thomson Reuters West)