Thursday, May 8, 2008

Sale of Motorcycles to Unlicensed Consumers: A Clear Case of General Negligence?

Introductory Resolution 1690, authored by Representative Jack Eddington, prohibits the selling of motorcycles to unlicensed motorcyclists in any state. The question in place is “Whether or not the motorcycle salesman can be held for negligence for selling the vehicle even though he knew that the prospective buyer was unlicensed.
This question was raised as a reaction to the wrongful death of Christopher Brandon Freeman who died three days after purchasing a 2002 Yamaha YZF600R sport motorcycle from Laurel Yamaha.
The Freemans filed a negligent case against the seller citing four points:

1) the seller was not able to check whether Brandon had a license and was competent
2) they negligently entrusted the motorcycle to Brandon
3) the company exercised negligence in training and supervising its staff
4) Laurel Yamaha did not sell Brandon an appropriately sized helmet.
After filing a motion for Summary Judgment, the Mississippi Supreme Court denied the motion. Laurel Yamaha filed an appeal, which was granted, by the court. The Justice ruled that under the laws of Mississippi, once a vehicle has been sold to a customer, the seller no longer has jurisdiction over the product sold.
In proving negligence, the plaintiff should prove four elements namely duty, breach, causation, and damage. In this case, the Freemans were not able to prove that Laurel and Yamaha had a hand in choosing the helmet used by Brandon. The fact that their son had a valid license with no “E” endorsement was already a violation of state laws.
This is a clear example of the plaintiff losing to the defendant simply because all the elements required for a successful negligence claim was not present in their case.