The Graves amendment, enacted August 10, 2005, abolished vicarious liability for rental and leased cars. In other words, the car owner (the rental company) will not be liable for the negligence of the operator. This is a luxury that neither you nor I have. For example, if I were to lend my car to my friend, and the friend had an accident, both the friend(operator) and I (owner) would be liable for the accident.
Since the passage of the Graves Amendment personal injury lawyers have tried to create exceptions, without much success. The latest such case was brought for the Wrongful death of Bonnie Rivers, who was killed in a car accident while a passenger in a 2008 Corvette that was rented and driven by William Walker.
At the time Walker rented the Corvette his license was suspended. Hertz was unaware that Walker did not possess a valid drivers license.
Rivers Estate sued Hertz and alleged that Hertz had a duty to investigate and discover Walker’s suspended drivers license. The trial court dismissed the complaint and held that Hertz only duty was to inspect the license to verify the signature.
The case was appealed too the 3rd DCA, which held that Hertz did not have a duty to perform a background check into the status of Walker’s drivers license.
As a MIami Personal injury lawyer, I have seen the Graves amendment used to deny injured victims and their families justice. Thankfully, the graves amendment has not been extended to afford immunity to those that are not in the business of leasing automobiles. For example, loaner cars from a dealerships service department are not under the Graves amendment.