Zaldivar v. PrickettAnnotate this Case
Daniel Prickett sued Imelda Zaldivar to recover money damages for injuries that he allegedly sustained in October 2009 after a vehicular collision. Prickett and Zaldivar blamed the other for the collision; Zaldivar alleged that Prickett's employer, Overhead Door Company (not a party to the lawsuit) was vicariously liable. Prickett was driving an Overhead Door vehicle at the time of the collision. According to Zaldivar, Overhead Door was negligent to have entrusted Prickett with a company truck, and for that reason, it too should bear some of the responsibility for any injuries that he sustained. Zaldivar gave notice under the "apportionment statute," OCGA 51-12-33, that she intended to ask the trier of fact in this case to assign some responsibility to Overhead Door for some of Prickett's injuries. Prickett filed a motion for partial summary judgment, asserting that OCGA 51-12-33 did not require any assignment of responsibility to Overhead Door. The trial court granted the motion for partial summary judgment, agreeing with Prickett about the meaning of the apportionment statute, and following the controlling case law to conclude that negligent entrustment on the part of Overhead Door could not possibly have been a proximate cause of any injuries that Prickett sustained. Zaldivar appealed, and in a split decision, the Court of Appeals affirmed. The Georgia Supreme Court granted certiorari review of the decision of the Court of Appeals, and concluded that the majority of the Court of Appeals correctly understood OCGA 51-12-33 to require the trier of fact to consider the “fault” of a nonparty only when the nonparty is shown to have committed a tort against the plaintiff that was a proximate cause of his injury. Furthermore, the Court concluded that negligent entrustment of an instrumentality could be a proximate cause of an injury to the person to whom the instrumentality was entrusted, and the majority of the Court of Appeals erred when it relied on statements in the case law to the contrary. The Court therefore reversed the judgment of the Court of Appeals.