4Front Engineered Solutions Inc. v. Carlos Rosales, et al. – 15-0298
This case arose from an incident in which an electrician was injured when a forklift overturned. The forklift had been borrowed from the property owner by another independent contractor. The electrician asserted a negligent entrustment claim against the property owner and claimed that the property owner failed to make sure that the independent contractor, who the property owner permitted to use the forklift, was competent to do so.
The Texas Supreme Court clarified that a negligent entrustment claim requires more than a showing of general negligence. Instead, in order to prevail on a negligent entrustment claim based on a failure to screen, the electrician would have to establish that (1) the property owner did not make inquiries and (2) if the property owner had made inquiries it would have discovered facts that would have caused a reasonable employer to believe that the independent contractor was incompetent or reckless. The Court further clarified that, unless there is a statutory requirement to be licensed, the mere lack of formal training or certification is insufficient to establish such incompetence or recklessness.
In this case, the Court concluded that, even if the property owner had made inquiries, there was no evidence of any prior habits or experiences that would have caused the property owner to reasonably believe that the independent contractor could not or would not competently operate the forklift; therefore, the evidence did not support the jury’s finding of negligent entrustment.