Though both New York and Connecticut have pending state bills seeking limits on vicarious liability, some rental industry leaders are focusing their lobbying efforts on federal reform. Spearheading the federal lobbying effort is the Vehicle Renting and Leasing Fairness Alliance (VRLFA), a coalition of car rental and leasing companies.
In recent months, the VRLFA has worked toward introducing an amendment into the federal transportation bill. If passed, the amendment would prevent vehicle rental and leasing companies from being held liable for injury, death or property damage arising from a renter’s or lessee’s negligence. This protection would not apply if a rental company was guilty of negligence or criminal wrongdoing, or if the company failed to maintain required state insurance limits.
Because vehicle rental and leasing companies engage in interstate commerce, reform at the federal level makes sense, says Tom James, vice president of government relations for the Truck Renting and Leasing Association (TRALA), which formed VRLFA. Lessors and rental companies can’t control where their customers drive, and liability laws vary greatly from state to state. There’s a need for a national standard. The amendment, if passed, would supersede vicarious liability laws in 15 states.
But the federal reform effort faces some major challenges — and those came to the fore in the House on April 1, after Congressman Sam Graves (R-Mo.) introduced the amendment. The amendment went down to defeat in a voice vote after a lively discussion.