Torts II, Pages 715–717

Maloney v. Rath

Supreme Court of California, 1968


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.


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


LexisNexis IconWestLaw LogoGoogle Scholar LogoPage 716, Last Paragraph
Restatement Second of Torts § 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."


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


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


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.