No ‘Joint Enterprise’ in Accident
The plaintiff’s decedent, a 16-year-old minor, died when his motor vehicle left the road and struck a number of trees. The decedent’s estate brought claims against the driver of another vehicle who was allegedly racing with the decedent, as well as the two passengers in that vehicle. The plaintiff alleged the passengers were liable as a result of engaging in a joint enterprise with the other driver by encouraging him to race with the decedent. The plaintiff also alleged that the passengers could be held liable to the plaintiffs under a simple theory of negligence, and that the mother of one passenger negligently supervised her son.
We argued that the passenger could only be held liable under a theory of joint enterprise, rather than simple negligence, and that the elements for joint enterprise were absent. Specifically, the passenger did not have an ability or right to control the vehicle in which he was a passenger and, therefore, did not engage in a joint enterprise with the driver. We further argued that the defendant parent was not liable because there was no evidence that her son caused or contributed to the plaintiff’s accident, nor of any propensity on the part of her son to engage in racing activities. The court agreed and granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant passenger and defendant parent.