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Rippy v. Shepard Discusses Liability in Personal Injury Cases

Accidents are a common occurence in our society; however, it is so rare for people to pay attention to liability until after an accident. This case addresses this issue of liability in something a little less common, farm tractor accidents.

Although you may feel that this does not apply to you, the court in Rippy v. Shepard says this case affects people in all different communities because the court here identifies the different theories of liability in addition to defining one of our every day words: “motor vehicles.”s
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Bangor personal injury cases rely upon many of the same principles. Our Bangor personal injury attorneys understand that the last thing you are thinking about until you are involved in an accident is liability.

This case arose when Rippy was injured because of the negligent driving of a third party who was given permission by Shepard, to drive Shepard’s farm tractor. People frequently lend their cars to others without knowing whether they can be held responsible for the negligent driving of another. This theory of liability for the negligence of others who are using your property is referred to as Respondeat Superior or vicarious liability. Every state has adopted this type of liability in some form.

In Florida, the court notes that this doctrine surrounding imputed liability in reference to motor vehicles and is referred to as the dangerous instrumentality doctrine. The court dictated that this specific doctrine imposes liability on the motor vehicle or automobile owner when they lend their instrumentalities to another person who, when operating it negligently, injures another. This rule applies to motor vehicles and automobiles, which can cause serious injury to a person.

The court in this case notes that motor vehicles are generally safe when used correctly. However, they can injure someone when they are not operated with the appropriate care. This rule imputing liability on the owner is applied to both instances where the motor vehicle is operated on public streets and private property.

Now this case got interesting with its holding that in Florida a farm tractor is legally considered a motor vehicle. Rippy v. Shepard shows us that although we feel we are familiar with the terminology surrounding things in our daily use, we may not be aware of how these things are defined in a legal capacity.

The question of what to classify a farm tractor began with the determination of what the legal system in Florida has historically considered them. The court cited statutes that defined farm tractors as,s”any motor vehicle designed and used primarily as a farm implement for drawing plows, mowing machines and other implements of husbandry.”sFlorida Statute § 316.003(12). And then the court went further as to cite Florida Statute § 322.01(19) where farm tractors are again explicitly referred to as motor vehicles.

This court ruled that this liability doctrine of dangerous instrumentality extends to include, “golf carts, trucks, buses, airplanes, tow-motors and other motorized vehicles.”sMost people may not be readily aware that they are accepting liability for the actions of another when they are lending these types of motor vehicles to another person.

The main idea of this case is that the court upholds the use of the very old dangerous instrumentality doctrine in the determination of present day liability. The purpose of this is to hold the owners financially responsible for the negligence of anyone using their property. The reason to impute liability on the owner is to discourage people from allowing irresponsible people to use their motor vehicles.

If you have been injured contact Maine injury attorneys at Peter Thompson & Associates to schedule a free appointment. Call 1-800-490-5218.