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The doctrine of imputed negligence is not based on any negligence of the owner-passenger. Rather, it is a form of vicarious liability. It is thus distinct from the tort of negligent entrustment. An owner of a car may be found liable for the tort of negligent entrustment when the owner permits another to use the car when the owner knows, or reasonably should know, that the other person is likely to use the car in a manner likely to cause injury to others. The tort of negligent entrustment is thus based on the negligent action of the car owner — i.e., entrusting the car to an unreliable driver — and does not depend on whether the owner is present at the time of the accident. It is a form of direct negligence and is not a theory of vicarious liability. By contrast, the doctrine of imputed negligence is not premised on any negligence of the car owner, but only on the car owner's ownership and presence at the time of the accident.
Respondent Jeffrey Mintiens backed his truck out of a parking space and struck a car in which Petitioner Victoria Worsley seated. Petitioner’s husband had driven the couple to the restaurant and left the car and his wife stopped in a travel lane perpendicular to respondent’s parking space while he retrieved the couple's take-out order from the restaurant. Petitioner filed suit against respondent, alleging that the latter was negligent. At trial, respondent raised the defense of contributory negligence. The district court concluded that petitioner’s husband had himself been negligent, and that such negligence should be imputed to petitioner under the imputed negligence doctrine. Accordingly, the district court entered a judgment in favor of respondent, which the Circuit Court affirmed. Petitioner filed a petition for a writ of certiorari.
Did the doctrine of imputed negligence apply in the case at bar?
The Court held that the doctrine of imputed negligence did not apply to deem an owner-passenger of a vehicle contributorily negligent based on the negligence of the permissive driver and bar the owner-passenger from recovering compensation from a negligent third party because the high court no longer indulged the presumption that the owner-passenger had operational control over a permissive driver of the vehicle and was therefore responsible for any negligence of the driver; to the extent that Slutter v. Homer, 244 Md. 131 (1966) and Merrott v. Dardem, 227 Md. 589 (1962), were inconsistent with the court's conclusion, they were overruled.