Is my wife's friend liable for the drunk driving incident? 37 Answers as of June 21, 2013

My wife's friend allowed her to drive her rental vehicle when she knew my wife was intoxicated. Subsequently my wife was arrested for DUI. However, my wife's friend who promised me she would call me or a cab if they had too many that night gets off unscathed. I feel as the registered operator of the rental she had some responsibility in the matter. Can I take court action against her to recover court costs, fines or anything? I got stuck paying all the fines and dealing with the aftermath.

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Edward  D. Dowling IV Attorney at Law
Edward D. Dowling IV Attorney at Law | Edward D. Dowling IV
You can talk to the prosecuting attorneys to see if they want to pursue criminal charges against the friend but I think they will decline. You can try to file a civil case against her but that will be difficult to prove any liability o the friends part. You should hire an attorney and disclose all details and then he can advise if anything you can do.
Answer Applies to: New York
Replied: 10/7/2011
Law Office of Thomas A. Medford, Jr., PC
Law Office of Thomas A. Medford, Jr., PC | Thomas A. Medford, Jr.
Based on the facts that you have provided I do not think you have a good chance of being successful in a lawsuit against your wife' friend but since a lot of attorneys offer a free initial evaluation you may want to get a second opinion that way.
Answer Applies to: District of Columbia
Replied: 10/4/2011
The Law Firm of David Jolly
The Law Firm of David Jolly | David Jolly
I doubt your friend can be held liable for anything unfortunately.
Answer Applies to: Washington
Replied: 9/30/2011
Austin Legal Services, PLC
Austin Legal Services, PLC | Jared Austin
Your wife's conduct would never effect her friend's criminal responsibility for driving drunk. However, people can be charged for knowingly let someone drunk drive their car. Since a rental car is under that person's control, that may be enough. But I imagine the prosecutor would have charged her already if they thought they should.
Answer Applies to: Michigan
Replied: 9/28/2011
Burdon and Merlitti
Burdon and Merlitti | Adam Van Ho
It depends on the specific circumstances of the case, but as a general rule, your wife would be responsible for her own actions. As such, while there may be a question of moral culpability, from a legal standpoint, your wife is responsible but you may wish to consult an attorney to determine if your specific case could result in some sort of civil liability.
Answer Applies to: Ohio
Replied: 9/27/2011
    Reeves Law Firm, P.C.
    Reeves Law Firm, P.C. | Roy L. Reeves
    Your wife committed a crime. Your wife's friend committed a civil tort called negligent entrustment. Now, let's analyze the two. For your wife, she drove a motor vehicle while under the influence. That is a crime and the friend is not liable for the actions of your wife in the criminal sense. Negligent entrustment is a civil matter, but not available to you as a form of recovery since the only damages you have suffered are the result of your wife's action. If your wife had an accident, the person in the other car could use Negligent Entrustment to get to the insurance who would refuse to pay for damage caused by your wife since she is not an insured party. Accordingly, you can try but you will lose.
    Answer Applies to: Texas
    Replied: 9/26/2011
    Gonzalez Law Associates P.C.
    Gonzalez Law Associates P.C. | Carlos Gonzalez
    Generally no, as your wife independently committed a criminal act and for the most part legally that trumps any agreement priorly joined into...
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 9/26/2011
    Law Office of Richard Williams
    Law Office of Richard Williams | Richard Williams
    Your question is a question involving civil action. Perhaps you can file suite against the person who allowed her to drive after becoming intoxicated if you could find a civil attorney who would be interested in pursing the case.
    Answer Applies to: Alabama
    Replied: 9/26/2011
    Law Office of Tracey S. Sang
    Law Office of Tracey S. Sang | Tracey Sang
    You need to go to a different category of lawyers to ask this question - this is a question of civil liability, not criminal law.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 9/26/2011
    Law Office of Phillip Weiser
    Law Office of Phillip Weiser | Phillip L. Weiser
    You may be able to file a civil lawsuit against her for liability in allowing an intoxicated person to drive.
    Answer Applies to: Kansas
    Replied: 9/26/2011
    Freeborn Law Offices, P.S.
    Freeborn Law Offices, P.S. | Steve Freeborn
    Unless your wife's friend was actively serving your wife the drinks and forcing her to drive, it is highly unlikely that you have any recourse against the friend. It was your wife's decision to drink and it was your wife's decision to drive. The focus should be on dealing with your wife and and addressing any potential alcohol issues that she might have. Hopefully, your wife has an attorney.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 9/26/2011
    Mark Thiessen, Attorney at Law
    Mark Thiessen, Attorney at Law | Mark Thiessen
    Criminally you don't have an issue, and it's not a defense for your wife. However, you could always file a civil lawsuit against this woman. Good luck. Problem is, your wife is a grownup and no one can force her to do anything.
    Answer Applies to: Texas
    Replied: 9/24/2011
    Law Office of Thomas F. Mueller
    Law Office of Thomas F. Mueller | Thomas Mueller
    She would certainly have some liability if there had been an accident, but I doubt that any judge or jury would excuse your wife ( or you ) just because the friend was silly enough to allow a drunk person to drive. You'll need to work it out with your wife.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 9/24/2011
    Donahue, Sowa & Magana Attorneys at Law
    Donahue, Sowa & Magana Attorneys at Law | Glenn M. Sowa
    The general rule of law is that a 3rd party is not liable/responsible for the criminal acts of another. There are some exceptions to this, but they are not apparent from your narrative. In that regard, it is highly unlikely that you would prevail in a civil suit to recover damages, i.e. fines and court costs, from your wife's friend.
    Answer Applies to: Illinois
    Replied: 9/23/2011
    Jonathan S. Willett Attorney at Law
    Jonathan S. Willett Attorney at Law | Jonathan S. Willett
    We have what is called "dramshop" liability a person who permits another intoxicated person to drive, if the driver gets in an accident and hurts property or people. Otherwise, you have nor recourse.
    Answer Applies to: Colorado
    Replied: 9/23/2011
    Betts Legal Services
    Betts Legal Services | Shawn M. Betts
    Most private individuals cannot be held liable for simply allowing another person to drive while intoxicated. If a business serves someone who is obviously intoxicated, they can be sued under what are called dramshop laws. But your wife made the choice to drive and is the one who is responsible.
    Answer Applies to: Minnesota
    Replied: 9/23/2011
    Law Offices of Jeffery A. Cojocar, PC
    Law Offices of Jeffery A. Cojocar, PC | Jeffery A. Cojocar
    Yes there is liability.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 6/3/2013
    Peter Duarte, Attorney at Law
    Peter Duarte, Attorney at Law | Peter Duarte
    I don't believe you have a cause of action against your wife's friend to recover cost associated with your wife's DUI case.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 9/23/2011
    Jules N. Fiani, Attorney at Law
    Jules N. Fiani, Attorney at Law | Jules Fiani
    No.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 6/3/2013
    Law Offices of John Carney
    Law Offices of John Carney | John Carney
    Drunk driving is like shooting a gun at a moving train and hoping no one gets shot. It is an incredibly foolish, immature, selfish, and dangerous act that could lead to the death or serious injury to the thousands of innocent drivers on the road. Although it was stupid of our wife's friend to let her drive her rental car I doubt that any judge or jury would find her liable for money damages. Getting a DWI is an expensive lesson, but at least she and her friend were not injured and did not kill anyone, so it will just cost you money.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 9/23/2011
    Dunnings Law Firm
    Dunnings Law Firm | Steven Dunnings
    No.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 6/3/2013
    Palumbo and Kosofsky
    Palumbo and Kosofsky | Michael Palumbo
    Why did you pay your wife's fines when you should have made her do that. You cannot sue her friend because you do not have standing; i.e., since you had no legal obligation to pay your wife's fines her friend had no duty to you. Comes back to the original question - why did you pay your wife's fines in the first place.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 9/23/2011
    Klisz Law Office, PLLC
    Klisz Law Office, PLLC | Timothy J. Klisz
    No. Your wife made her decision and there is no duty of her friend.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 6/3/2013
    Craig W. Elhart, P.C.
    Craig W. Elhart, P.C. | Craig Elhart
    Your wife is responsible for her own actions. Because some lets a person who may be intoxicated drive does not make that person responsible for the criminal activity of the driver. There is nothing you can do against the friend.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 9/23/2011
    Beaulier Law Office
    Beaulier Law Office | Maury Beaulier
    No. You cannot pass off the responsibility for driving intoxicated on the owner of the vehicle. She did not force your spouse to drink excessively or to drive.
    Answer Applies to: Minnesota
    Replied: 9/23/2011
    Timothy J. Thill P.C.
    Timothy J. Thill P.C. | Timothy J. Thill
    The criminal court will not concern itself with you being repaid for the costs of this case. you need to discuss this with an attorney who practices civil law, as opposed to criminal law. He will be able to answer the questions for you. Be aware that you will be incurring expenses for this lawyer, but a consultation should not be too costly.
    Answer Applies to: Illinois
    Replied: 9/23/2011
    Jason Overton, Attorney at Law
    Jason Overton, Attorney at Law | Jason Overton
    You can try, I guess, but the best argument you can think of will not change the fact that your wife was the one driving drunk. That's why you got "stuck" with the fines and penalties.
    Answer Applies to: Alabama
    Replied: 9/23/2011
    Law Office of Jeff Yeh
    Law Office of Jeff Yeh | Jeff Yeh
    Nope. You have absolutely no case. The driver is the one legally liable. Period.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 6/21/2013
    Cynthia Henley, Lawyer
    Cynthia Henley, Lawyer | Cynthia Henley
    Your wife is responsible for her own actions in driving the car while intoxicated. You would not be able to recover any of the relevant costs involved with the criminal charge.
    Answer Applies to: Texas
    Replied: 9/23/2011
    Law Office of Jared Altman
    Law Office of Jared Altman | Jared Altman
    I don't think that you have a claim against her. No one held a gun to your wife's head to get behind the wheel. She is responsible for her own actions.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 9/23/2011
    The Law Offices of Jaime Cowan
    The Law Offices of Jaime Cowan | Jaime Cowan
    No, not in criminal court. Your wife drove and your wife was drunk.
    Answer Applies to: Colorado
    Replied: 9/23/2011
    Law Offices of Martina A. Vigil, PC
    Law Offices of Martina A. Vigil, PC | Martina A. Vigil
    Well, the person you should be angry at is your wife; not your wife's friend. Your wife's friend was not responsible for your wife getting a DUI. You probably cannot recover damages because the friend is not the causal connection between your wife driving drunk and her receiving a DUI.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 9/23/2011
    John Segelbaum, P.S.
    John Segelbaum, P.S. | John Segelbaum
    The short answer is no. The friend is not liable to you for a crime committed by your wife.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 9/23/2011
    Andersen Law PLLC
    Andersen Law PLLC | Craig Andersen
    Your wife and your wife alone is responsible for the DUI. She chose to drive. The friend might be civilly liable for injuries caused to a third party under a theory of negligent entrustment but that would only go to a third party. My advice is to look at your own household if you want to blame someone for what your wife did. The responsible party sleeps next to you. Blame her if you want to blame someone.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 9/23/2011
    Anderson Law Office
    Anderson Law Office | Scott L. Anderson
    Not as far as I know. The driver of the vehicle is responsible for their own offenses.
    Answer Applies to: Minnesota
    Replied: 9/23/2011
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