Reardon v. Fredrickson
Genuine issues of material fact can bar summary judgment on a claim that a parent negligently failed to keep her motor-vehicle keys in a safe location, and her child’s friend stole the motor-vehicle keys and collided with another motor vehicle. On March 19, 2011, 16-year-old Chelsea Frederickson allegedly argued with her parents and arrived unexpectedly at the O’Malley residence, to see her high school friend, Kayla O’Malley. Kayla allegedly obtained the keys to her mother’s Mitsubishi and drove to Rocky Hill, to pick up another friend, Colby Cordaro, so that the teenage girls could spend the night at the O’Malley residence. On March 20, Kayla’s mother drove to work. The teenage girls argued, and Frederickson, who only had a learner’s permit to drive, allegedly grabbed the keys to the O’Malleys’ Mitsubishi and drove away. Her friends called the police and reported that the O’Malleys’ motor vehicle had been stolen. On Route 85 in Colchester, Frederickson allegedly lost control and collided with the plaintiff, Michael Reardon. Reardon sued Kayla O’Malley’s mother, because she owned the Mitsubishi, and alleged that she knew Frederickson was distraught, she knew the motor-vehicle keys were accessible and she failed to place the motor-vehicle keys in a safe location. O’Malley’s mother moved for summary judgment and argued that she was not vicariously responsible. Absent evidence that the teenage driver, Frederickson, was a member of the O’Malley family or household or that she acted as the agent of O’Malley’s mother, a reasonably jury could not find that O’Malley’s mother is vicariously responsible, and the court granted her motion for summary judgment on that count. Genuine issues of material fact exist with respect to whether the defendant mother negligently failed to keep her motor-vehicle keys in a safe location, and the court denied the mother’s motion for summary judgment on negligence.