Written by attorney Julie K. Kurtz

What is Florida’s dangerous instrumentality doctrine?

Florida’s dangerous instrumentality doctrine imposes strict vicarious liability upon the owner of a motor vehicle who entrusts its use to another person.

Originating from a 1920 Florida Supreme Court case, Southern Cotton Oil Co. v. Anderson, the dangerous instrumentality doctrine has influenced court decisions for nearly a century. Although highway travel has changed dramatically through these many years, the Court’s opinion that a vehicle owner is ultimately responsible for its use by another person has not changed.

Florida courts routinely hold vehicle owners financially liable for accidents and resulting damages that occurred when the vehicle was operated by someone else.

Although loaning a vehicle to a son or daughter home from college, a truck to a friend moving to another residence or a motorcycle to a relative practicing for an endorsement are all common practices, it is imperative that the owner loaning the vehicle understand the responsibility he or she retains.

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