Vicarious Liability Ban Being Tested in Florida

BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. --- Though the Graves Amendment portion of the transportation bill that was passed last fall placed a federal ban on vicarious liability, apparently, there are still circumstances in which rental and leasing companies can be held responsible.

In March, a Florida judge ruled that the lessor could still be required to pay damages, according to Automotive News. In cases where the state has “financial responsibility” rules for companies that rent or lease vehicles, the stretch of the vicarious liability ban is not as far-reaching as it first seemed. For instance, if customers have less insurance than the state stipulates, then the lessor is responsible, under Florida law.

Brevard County Judge Mitchell Barlow ruled that Enterprise Leasing Co. may have to pay up to $500,000 to Jo Ellen and Robert Poole for injuries sustained by Jo Ellen Poole in a 2002 collision with a vehicle leased from Enterprise, the report said. Though Enterprise argued that the Graves Amendment cleared the company of liability, Barlow said that the bill’s intent was to block claims in states with “unlimited” vicarious liability.

The report said Enterprise plans to appeal the decision. The Center for Constitutional Litigation, a Washington D.C. outfit that represents the Association of Trial Lawyers in America, suggested that a block on the Poole’s claim should prompt a call for the vicarious liability ban to be declared unconstitutional. Though, this case did not involve the constitutionality of the ban.

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