Can There be a Negligent Entrustment for an Electronic Bicycle?

With the advent of electric vehicles, specifically electronic bicycles and monowheels, the question may arise: If someone is hurt due to a crash with an E-Bike or Monocycle, can they hold the owner responsible or just the operator?

Virginia law on negligent contributory says as follows:
Instruction No. 7.010 Negligent Entrustment. The plaintiff contends that the defendant is liable because he permitted his vehicle to be used
by an unfit driver whose negligence, as a result of the unfitness, caused the accident. An unfit
driver is a person who, because of his age [inexperience; physical condition; mental condition;
drug/alcohol impairment], is likely to use a motor vehicle in a manner involving unreasonable risk of harm to others. Plaintiff must prove by the greater weight of the evidence that:
  • (1) defendant expressly or impliedly permitted (rider) to drive his vehicle; and
  • (2) (rider) was an unfit driver; and
  • (3) defendant knew, or should have known, that (rider) was an unfit driver; and
  • (4) (rider) was negligent as a result of the unfitness; and
  • (5) (rider)’s negligence was a proximate cause of plaintiff’s injuries.
Permission is express when it is given directly. Permission is implied when it is gathered from the circumstances, general language, or conduct of the parties.
There is much to learn about electric bicycles. Look at our post on What Should I Know About My E-Bike for more information.

Doug Landau says that in the past, in order to be successful with an entrustment case, you generally had to show that the owner of the vehicle knew, or should’ve known, of the dangerous propensity to the person that they gave the keys to.

In one case, Landau was able to show that the parents of a young driver, who smashed into Landau’s client had previously paid for several tickets in court, and had written checks for the fines and court costs. In other words, they had knowledge that their kid was a terrible driver and had done nothing to try to ameliorate the situation. They didn’t have their son go to safe driving school, they didn’t restrict the use of the car, or take any other steps geared towards the safety and well-being of others.
In a different case, Landau was able to show several property damage claims against a young defendant, which the parents knew about, as they had either fixed and/or paid the damages.
In an E-Bike or motorcycle situation, the same level of evidence will probably be required. As to whether they will be considered a dangerous instrumentality or subject to other rules, remains to be seen. Presently, there is no case law on negligent entrustment for E-Bikes in Virginia, or anywhere in the country.
If you, or someone you know, has any questions regarding collisions with electric bicycles, motorcycles, or other nontraditional electric-powered or motorized vehicles, please do not hesitate to contact us at 703–796–9055, or email