Summary Judgment – Gonzales v. Postel

November 2016

Gonzales v. Postel, Civil Action 16CV30120, Denver District Court.

Plaintiff filed suit against Defendant for alleged injuries resulting from a motor vehicle accident. Plaintiff claimed that she was injured when she was rear-ended by someone driving Defendant’s vehicle. Defendant was attempting to sell his vehicle and had allowed an individual to take the vehicle on a test drive, during which the accident happened. Defendant did not ride in the vehicle during the test drive. Plaintiff asserted a claim of vicarious liability via joint venture in the operation of a motor vehicle against Defendant claiming that Defendant should be held responsible for the actions of the driver of his vehicle because they were engaged in a joint venture at the time of the accident – the sale and purchase of Defendant’s vehicle. In order to impose joint venture vicarious liability in the operation of a motor vehicle under Colorado law it must be proven that the owner and driver were 1) united in pursuit of a common purpose, and 2) both the driver and owner had the right to control the operation of the vehicle. Plaintiff filed a motion for summary judgment on the issue of liability, arguing that both of these elements had been established and were undisputed. Defendant responded by filing a cross-motion for summary judgment arguing that because Defendant was not in the vehicle at the time of the accident he was unable to exercise control over the operation of the vehicle, and thus no joint venture could have existed. The Court agreed with Defendant and entered judgment in his favor, noting that “a non-passenger cannot have the necessary right to control the operation of a vehicle so as to fulfill the elements of a joint venture.”