90 F.2d 412 (D.D.C. 1937), 6797, Forrester v. Jerman

Docket Nº:6797.
Citation:90 F.2d 412
Party Name:FORRESTER v. JERMAN et al.
Case Date:April 12, 1937
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

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90 F.2d 412 (D.D.C. 1937)



JERMAN et al.

No. 6797.

United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia.

April 12, 1937

Argued March 11, 12, 1937.

I. Irwin Bolotin, Samuel B. Brown, and Ida T. Fox, all of Washington, D.C., for appellant.

Henry I. Quinn and Austin F. Canfield, both of Washington, D.C. for appellees.

Before MARTIN, Chief Justice, and ROBB, VAN ORSDEL, GRONER, and STEPHENS, Associate Justices.


This is an automobile injury case. Appellant sued appellees to recover damages for the loss of his wife's services resulting from injuries she received in December, 1935, when struck by one of appellees' automobiles. The particular circumstances under which the injury occurred are not in point, since negligence in the operation of the automobile is tacitly conceded. The single question we are asked to decide is whether, under section 3 of an act of Congress called the Automobile Financial Responsibility Law (49 Stat. 166 (D.C. Code Supp. II 1936, T. 6, Sec. 255b)), the owner of an automobile who lends it to another is liable for the negligence of the operator though the loan is unrelated to employment and is wholly a friendly accommodation. Stated otherwise, whether the statute imposes liability on owners of motor vehicles for the negligence of those intrusted

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by the owner with their use in the absence of master and servant relation.

Before the passage of the act in question it was the settled law in the District of Columbia that the owner of an automobile was not liable for damages negligently caused by another in the use of the automobile for his own pleasure and not on the owner's business. Curry v. Stevenson, 58 App.D.C. 162, 26 F.2d 534; Schweinhaut v. Flaherty, 60 App.D.C. 151, 49 F.2d 533; Peabody v. Marlboro Implement Co., 63 App.D.C. 288, 72 F.2d 81.

On May 3, 1935, effective August 3, 1935, Congress passed-- 'An Act To promote safety on the public highways of the District of Columbia by providing for the financial responsibility of owners and operators of motor vehicles for damages caused by motor vehicles on the public highways in the District of Columbia; to prescribe penalties for the violation of the provisions of this Act, and for other purposes.' 49 Stat. 166. The objectives of the act are to be accomplished through the suspension of permit and registration certificate in the case of persons driving under the influence of liquor, leaving the scene of an accident, or failing to satisfy within thirty days a judgment obtained on account of an accident. Restoration of permit and registration depends upon a prescribed showing of financial responsibility to cover future accidents. The act applies to nonresidents as well as to residents of the District, and in the case of the former provides for valid service of process in suits for damages by service on the Director of Vehicles and Traffic. Under the title 'Owner's Liability,' the act provides as follows: (sections 255-255o hereof), 'Whenever any motor vehicle, after the passage of this Act, shall be operated upon the public highways of the District of Columbia by any person other than the owner, with the consent of the owner, express or implied, the operator thereof shall, in case of accident, be deemed to be the agent of the owner of such motor vehicle, and the proof of the ownership of said motor vehicle shall be prima facie evidence that such person operated said motor vehicle with the consent of the owner. ' D.C. Code Supp. II 1936, T. 6, Sec. 255b.

In the instant case it was stipulated that appellees owned the automobile being driven at the time of the injury, and appellant's evidence showed that the car had...

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