Torts II, Pages 715โ€“717

Maloney v. Rath

Supreme Court of California, 1968

Facts:

Defendant's brakes failed and she therefore collided with plaintiff's bar. She had no reason to know that the brakes were defective, but a mechanic, Evanchik, overhauled her brakes three months prior. A California statute gave drivers a non-delegable duty to maintain their brakes.

Procedural History:

Trial court found that Evanchik's negligent repair was the cause of the accident and rendered a judgment for defendant.

Issue:

Can a vehicle owner delegate the responsibility of making a brake repair to an independent contractor?

Rule:

LexisNexis IconWestLaw LogoGoogle Scholar LogoPage 716, Last Paragraph
Restatement Second of Torts ยง 423

"One who carries on an activity which threatens a grave risk of serious bodily harm or death unless the instrumentalities used are carefully . . . maintained, and who employs an independent contractor to . . . maintain such instrumentalities, is subject to the same liability for physical harm caused by the negligence of the contractor in . . . maintaining such instrumentalities as though the employer had himself done the work of . . . maintenance."

Reasoning:

A motorist cannot be held strictly liable for damage cause by brake failure.

Holding:

No, the responsibility to maintain one's vehicle is non-delegable. Reversed and remanded to determine damages.

Takeaway:

Bell: Where there is a non-delegable duty, the person upon whom the duty is imposed is responsible for an independent contractor's actions in negligently performing that duty.

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