Rippy v. Shepard Clears Up Confusion Over What Classifies as a Motor Vehicle

This case is very important not only to those who live in rural and farming communities, but people in all different kinds of communities. Rippy v. Shepard is a case that defines motor vehicles and discusses liability distribution in personal injury claims.
Knowing North Carolina personal injury law is not only the responsibility of a North Carolina injury attorney, it is also the responsibility of all vehicle owners. Knowing how your state imposes liability for negligence can help you act more cautiously in order to prevent these common North Carolina injury claims.

Rippy v. Shepard is a case that legally defines the commonly used term of motor vehicle. The court does this because the plaintiff in this case sued the defendant for injuries he sustained as a result of the defendant lending his farm tractor to another person who drove it negligently. We see this often with car accidents, but so many people do not know how their court imposes liability for these damages.

Vicarious liability is a doctrine created under the agency principles where there is liability or responsibility for actions of a subordinate imputed on the superior. This is commonly seen in cases where the employer is held liable for the acts of an employee while the acts were done within the scope of the employee’s employment. This is a common law principal that has been adjusted and codified by states differently.

In this Florida case, the doctrine applying this form of liability in reference to motor vehicles is called the dangerous instrumentality doctrine. This doctrine applies to motor vehicles and automobiles that have the ability to cause serious injury.

The question then rested with the court as to whether a farm tractor was considered a motor vehicle. The first point of analysis was to determine whether the Florida courts and the Florida Legislature have considered farm tractors to be motor vehicles. The court cited Florida Statute § 316.003(12) where farm tractor is defined as “any motor vehicle designed and used primarily as a farm implement for drawing plows, mowing machines and other implements of husbandry.” Additionally, Florida Statute § 322.01(19) also refers to farm tractors as a motor vehicle.

The court acknowledges that motor vehicles are not peculiarly dangerous in their ordinary use. But they do cause damage and injury when they are operated without the proper amount of care. The court clarifies that this doctrine is not limited to motor vehicles that are being operated on public streets, but it also applies to motor vehicles being used on private property.

This court goes on to cite significant case law where the Florida courts have extended this doctrine to include, “golf carts, trucks, buses, airplanes, tow-motors and other motorized vehicles.”

The premise of this dangerous instrumentality doctrine is that it seeks to put a financial responsibility on owners of vehicles who entrust these vehicles to others who then negligently operate them. See Kraemer v. General Motors Acceptance Corp., 572 So. 2d 1363, 1365 (Fla. 1990).

Although this common law doctrine may be unique to Florida, other states have similar legal standards of imposing vicarious liability on owners where there instrumentalities are negligently operated by another person with the permission of the owner.

If you have been injured contact North Carolina injury attorneys at Lee Law Offices to schedule a free appointment today. Call 800-887-1965.

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