Florida Court Discusses Vicarious Liability for Car Accidents

In Florida, a person that lends their car to another driver may generally be held vicariously liable for any injuries the driver causes while using the vehicle. There are some exceptions to the general rule, though. For example, pursuant to a law referred to as the Graves Amendment, parties that maintain a business that sells or leases cars will not be held responsible for harm that arises out of the sale or lease of one of their vehicles in most cases. The Graves Amendment and the evidence a party must produce to show that it applies were the topic of an opinion recently delivered by a Florida court. If you suffered harm in a car crash, you might be owed damages, and you should meet with a trusted Cape Coral car accident attorney as soon as possible.

The Subject Accident

Allegedly, the driver went to the defendant’s car dealership to drop off his wife’s car for service. The defendant loaned him a vehicle to use until the wife’s car was ready. It was unclear whether the defendant required the driver to complete a rental agreement. A week later, the driver caused a car crash that resulted in the plaintiff suffering substantial harm. She filed a vicarious liability claim against the defendant, arguing that it should be held accountable for the driver’s carelessness. The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that it could not be held liable as a matter of law because it was immune under the Graves Amendment.

The Terms of the Graves Amendment

The Graves Amendment prevents certain parties from being held vicariously liable under Florida’s dangerous instrumentality doctrine. Specifically, it states that a party that engages in the business of leasing or renting cars and subsequently loans or rents a car to an individual will not be deemed liable for injuries that arise out of the individual’s operation or possession of the car, as long as the party did not engage in criminal wrongdoing or negligence.

A party asserting that the Graves Amendment applies has to establish each element. Here, the plaintiff argued that the defendant failed to meet this burden. The court declined to adopt the plaintiff’s reasoning as to the first two elements. Specifically, the court noted that the plaintiff admitted the defendant owned the vehicle involved in the collision, and there were no facts that would indicate ownership was disputed.

Further, the court held that the defendant sufficiently showed that it leased and rented vehicles.  The court stated, however, that there was insufficient evidence to support the argument that the defendant rented the car to the driver. As such, the court declined to grant the defendant’s motion.

Speak with an Assertive Florida Attorney

If a motorist causes an accident with a borrowed car, both the motorist and the car owner may be held responsible for any injuries caused by the crash. If you were hurt in a collision, you should speak with an attorney to discuss what claims you may be able to pursue. The assertive Cape Coral car accident lawyers of Lusk, Drasites & Tolisano, P.A. can assess the circumstances surrounding your harm and help you to seek the best legal outcome possible under the facts of your case. You can contact us via our online form or by calling us at 800-283-7442 to set up a conference.


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