`Negligent Sale of Motorcycle?

Can a motorcycle dealer be held liable for selling a motorcycle to a person who did not have a motorcycle license?

Not in Mississippi.  The Mississippi Supreme Court recently considered a case where a dealer sold a motorcycle to an 18-year who it knew was not a licensed operator.  A representative of the dealer who knew the buyer was not licensed allowed him to leave the dealership on the bike and saw him operating it in town.  The buyer died in a motorcycle wreck three days later.

The Court first rejected a claim for negligent entrustment, saying that it did not exist in the context of a sales transaction.  It also found no duty under the common law for selling the motorcycle to an unlicensed driver. 

The case is Laurel Yamaha, Inc. v. Freeman,  NO. 2005-IA-01605-SCT  (May 31, 2007).  Read the opinion here.

 Note:  Would Tennessee reach a different result?  Consider these words written by Chief Justice Barker:

"[W][e conclude that a convenience store employee owes a duty of reasonable care to persons on the roadways, including the plaintiffs, not to sell gasoline to a person whom the employee knows (or reasonably ought to know) to be intoxicated and to be the driver of the motor vehicle. Similarly, a convenience store employee also owes a duty of reasonable care not to assist in providing gasoline (in this case pumping the gasoline) to a person whom the employee knows (or reasonably ought to know) to be intoxicated and to be the driver of the motor vehicle. We stress that because "foreseeability is the test of negligence,”  the convenience store employee must know that the individual is intoxicated and that the individual is the driver of the vehicle before a duty arises. It is a question of fact for a jury as to what the employee knew with respect to the individual’s intoxication and status as driver. We also hasten to point out, as did the Court of Appeals, that by our decision today we do not hold that convenience store employees have a duty to physically restrain or otherwise prevent intoxicated persons from driving."   West v. East Tennessee Pioneer Oil Co., 172 S.W.3d 545, 552 (Tenn. 2005) (citation omitted).

And then these words from page 556 from the same opinion:  "we conclude that the plaintiffs have established a prima facie claim of negligent entrustment. However the plaintiffs’ still bear the same burden at trial whether pursuing their theory of negligence or negligent entrustment. Both claims arise from the same facts, entail the same duty, and present the same factual issues to be resolved at trial regarding breach of duty, loss or injury, cause in fact, and proximate cause. We hold that a claim of negligent entrustment is applicable to this case and, therefore, the trial court erred in granting summary judgment in favor of the defendant."

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