MONTPELIER -- It’s back to the trial court for a Vermont case in which a woman lent her car keys to a man, who then gave them to the woman’s boyfriend, who then got into a fatal accident.
The Vermont Supreme Court ruled Friday in the complex case in which the bottom-line question is whether the woman’s auto insurance should cover a lawsuit brought by the dead man’s family, or whether the responsibility falls on the man who passed on the keys.
The family of the dead man, Kim Lamotte, is suing Seth Colby, who took the keys from Kelly Macie and gave them to Lamotte on a promise from Lamotte that he would not drive the car, but just wanted to unload boxes from the trunk and listen to its radio.
The justices sent the matter back to the Superior Court for Essex County, saying a judge or jury would have to determine if it was reasonable for Colby to have believed Lamotte’s promise not to drive the car, or if Colby had engaged in "negligent entrustment." If Colby acted reasonably, Macie’s insurance company, State Farm, would be liable for damages.
Here’s how the incident happened, according to the court’s ruling:
Colby picked Lamotte up hitchhiking in northeastern Vermont’s Essex County. Colby took him to a Lancaster, N.H., McDonald’s, where Macie, Lamotte’s girlfriend, worked. Lamotte asked Macie if he could borrow her car. Macie said no, because Lamotte had a lifetime driver’s license suspension for multiple drunken driving convictions and appeared to have been drinking at the time