GUSTAVO RAMIREZ-LUCAS, deceased, by and through CINDY KRAMER and NORMA RAMIREZ, co-personal representatives of the ESTATE OF GUSTAVO RAMIREZ-LUCAS, Appellants,
JOHN HUTCHINSON and ANDREW HUTCHINSON, Appellees.
final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.
from the Circuit Court for the Fifteenth Judicial Circuit,
Palm Beach County; Edward A. Garrison, Judge; L.T. Case No.
M. Dickert and Lee Gill Cohen of Kanner & Pintaluga,
P.A., Boca Raton, for appellants.
Klein of Conroy Simberg, Hollywood, for appellees.
Cindy Kramer and Norma Ramirez, as Co-Personal
Representatives of the Estate of Gustavo Ramirez-Lucas,
appeal the final judgment entered in favor of John Hutchison
on the issue of vicarious liability. For the reasons
discussed below, we affirm.
19, 2015, a vehicle driven by Andrew Hutchinson ("the
Son") collided with a bicycle operated by Gustavo
Ramirez-Lucas ("the Decedent"). As a result of the
collision, the Decedent suffered serious injuries which
ultimately resulted in his death. Plaintiffs thereafter sued
the Son for negligence along with his father, John Hutchinson
("the Father") (collectively
"Defendants"), for the Son's negligence under
the dangerous instrumentality doctrine. Specifically, the
complaint alleged that the Father owned the vehicle driven by
the Son that was involved in the accident. Defendants
answered the complaint and denied the material allegations,
including the Father's ownership of the vehicle.
issue of whether the Father transferred his ownership
interest in the vehicle prior to the accident proceeded to a
bench trial where the following was established by
testimonial and documentary evidence.
December 2014, approximately five months prior to the
accident, the Father delivered physical possession of the
vehicle to the adult Son along with both keys, the manual,
and the registration. That same day, the Father also provided
the Son with the signed certificate of title. From December
2014 until the time of the accident, the vehicle remained at
the Son's residence and the Son maintained sole
possession, control, and use of the vehicle. The Son also
paid all associated costs of the vehicle. The Father, who did
not reside with the Son, did not operate or exercise dominion
over the vehicle at any point after physical possession of
the vehicle was transferred to the Son.
initially agreed that the Son would pay $2, 500 for the
vehicle, however, payment was delayed until end of January
2015. Defendants later decided to formally document the sale
by belatedly executing a bill of sale agreement on April 1,
2015. The bill of sale agreement, which was admitted into
evidence, listed the Father as the seller, the Son as the
buyer, and the purchase price as $2, 500.
the same time that he received payment from the Son, the
Father sent a letter to his insurance carrier requesting that
the vehicle be removed from his policy because he "no
longer own[ed] the vehicle." The Father's insurance
carrier later confirmed in writing that, as of February 2,
2015, the vehicle was removed from the Father's policy.
That same month, the Son added the vehicle to his own
time prior to the accident did the Father notify the DMV of
the sale or transfer of the vehicle as required under section
319.22, Florida Statutes. Nor did the Son deliver the
certificate of title to the DMV to complete the transfer of
title prior to the accident.
on the above evidence, the trial court found that the Father
transferred his ownership interest in the vehicle prior to
the accident and was therefore not subject to vicarious
liability for the Son's alleged negligent driving.
Specifically, the court found that the Father's act of
delivering physical possession of the vehicle, along with the
keys, the owner's manual, and the endorsed certificate of
title, constituted a bona ...