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Roman v. Brown

Superior Court of Delaware

August 28, 2019

Andreea B. Roman
v.
Julis Malpico Brown, George A. Panarello, III, Paul J. Hysock, Jr., and All Scoots LLC

          Date Submitted: May 10, 2019

          James P. Hall, Esquire, Roger D. Landon, Esquire, Chase T. Brockstedt, Esquire, Patrick G. Rock, Esquire.

         Dear Counsel:

         In this Motion for Summary Judgment, I must decide whether a scooter store, its owner, and an employee can be found liable for injuries sustained in an accident involving the owner's scooter that had been loaned by the employee to a customer for his use while his personal scooter was undergoing repairs. At the time of the accident, the scooter was being operated by a relative of the customer.

         The injured party seeks to recover against the scooter store, its owner, and the employee under a theory of negligent entrustment. I find that the moving defendants are entitled to judgment as a matter of law as they had no knowledge that the scooter would be driven by anyone other than the customer when it was loaned to him, and because the customer's driving ability did not attribute to the injuries eventually sustained.

         BACKGROUND

         Defendant George A. Panarello, III ("Panarello") is the owner of Defendant All Scoots, LLC ("All Scoots") which operates as a scooter repair and storage business in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. Defendant Paul J. Hysock, Jr. ("Hysock") is a former employee of All Scoots.

         In June of 2014, Walter Brown brought his scooter to All Scoots for repairs. Hysock attempted to fix the scooter at that time but was unsuccessful. In order for Walter Brown to get to work, Hysock loaned him a scooter owned by Panarello that was stored in the shop (the "All Scoots Loaner"). According to Hysock, Walter Brown did not appear to have any difficulty operating the All Scoots Loaner as he drove away. At that time, and unbeknownst to Hysock, Walter Brown's driver's license had been suspended.[1]

         On July 1, 2014, Panarello received a call from the Rehoboth Police Department informing him that the All Scoots Loaner was in the possession of someone an officer had stopped for acting strangely. Shortly thereafter, Panarello went to All Scoots and demanded that Hysock have the All Scoots Loaner returned. Panarello also informed Hysock that he did not have permission to loan out the scooter to customers.

         Hysock then placed numerous phone calls to Walter Brown over a period of several days requesting that he return the All Scoots Loaner. Eventually, Walter Brown did bring the scooter back but, due to continued problems with his personal scooter, he was once again allowed to borrow the All Scoots Loaner.[2]

         On August 21, 2014, Plaintiff Andreea Roman (the "Plaintiff) suffered severe injuries after she was struck by Defendant Julis Malpico Brown driving the All Scoots Loaner. Although Julis Brown is related to Walter Brown, it is unclear how exactly he came to be in possession of the All Scoots Loaner at the time of the accident.

         The Plaintiff filed suit against Mis Brown, Panarello, Hysock, and All Scoots for the injuries she sustained in the accident on August 15, 2016. The Plaintiff alleged that the moving defendants were liable for her injuries under the doctrine of negligent entrustment. Additionally, the Plaintiff alleged that All Scoots was liable for the conduct of Hysock under the theory of respondeat superior. A judgment by default was entered against Julis Brown on April 20, 2018 for failing to appear in the case. Panarello and All Scoots filed their Motion for Summary Judgment on May 29, 2018. Hysock joined the Motion for Summary Judgment on July 10, 2018.

         CONTENTIONS OF THE PARTIES

         Panarello and All Scoots argue that summary judgment is appropriate because there is no evidence that any of the moving defendants had any reason to believe that Walter Brown was a reckless or incompetent driver when he was given the All Scoots Loaner. They also contend that there is no evidence that the moving defendants knew or should have known that Walter Brown would entrust the scooter to Julis Brown. Moreover, they point out that the record does not show that Julis Brown was a reckless or incompetent driver when he received that All Scoots Loaner from Walter Brown. ...


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