Court Rejects Vicarious Liability Under Georgia Boating Law

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The State Court of Dekalb County, Georgia recently held that companies operating in the boat rental business cannot be held vicariously liable for the negligent acts of their rental customers. Carol Morris v. Yaaqov Avihasira, et al., Civil Action File No. 11A-39187-4 (Order dated 7/31/14). In the first case to interpret Georgia's vicarious liability boating law in the rental context, O.C.G.A. §§ 51-1-21 and 51-1-22, the Court held that a boat rental company may only be held liable for the actions of a renter in the same way that a motor vehicle rental company may be held liable.

The plaintiff in this case was injured when the operator of a rented vessel struck her boat causing the plaintiff to fall into the water and injure her leg. The operator of the offending vessel rented his boat from a watercraft rental business on Lake Lanier. After her injury, the plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the operator of the boat for negligence and against the rental company alleging, among other claims, vicarious liability under O.C.G.A § 51-1-22.

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