49 U.S.C. Sec. 30106 (the “Graves Amendment”) shields those “engaged in the trade or business of renting or leasing motor vehicles [when] there is no negligence or criminal wrongdoing on the part of the owner” from vicarious liability for the rented or leased vehicle. Sec. 30106(a).
Given this language, does the Graves Amendment shield car dealerships from vicarious liability for accidents involving loaner vehicles? The one decision discussing the Graves Amendment vis-a-vis free service loaners, Zisersky v. Life Quality Motor Sales, Inc., 866 N.Y.S. 2d 501 (N.Y.. Sup. Ct. 2008), says No. Correctly, in our view, the court concluded that a loaner is neither a “lease” nor a “rental.”
The Graves Amendment has been used to shield rental agencies from vicarious liability for serious personal injuries caused by the drivers of their vehicles. We take issue with the Graves Amendment being applied under any circumstances, yet, sadly, it seems to be carrying the day in courts of most states with regard to rental agencies … at great harm to many individuals.
For example, our office is currently involved in a case where the negligent renter of an Enterprise vehicle caused it to flip over numerous times on I-75 near Gainesville, Florida. Enterprise is hiding behind the Graves Amendment to deny needed compensation to our client, an innocent passenger who was airlifted to Shands Hospital.
The United States Supreme Court will ultimately pass judgment on whether the Graves Amendment, a federal statute passed by a Republican Congress and signed into law by President Bush, overrides the right of the various states to craft laws to hold the rental car companies liable.
Had our client in the Enterprise vehicle been hurt before the Graves Amendment was enacted in 2005, Enterprise would be accountable for her past (in excess of $100,000) and future medical bills and compensation for pain and suffering.
We invite you to contact us toll-free at 866-785-GALE or by email to obtain a free, confidential consultation to learn your legal rights.
Jeffrey P. Gale, P.A. is a South Florida based law firm committed to the judicial system and to representing and obtaining justice for individuals – the poor, the injured, the forgotten, the voiceless, the defenseless and the damned, and to protecting the rights of such people from corporate and government oppression. We do not represent government, corporations or large business interests.