Avis Not Liable for Accident Involving Stolen Car

SAN JOSE, Calif. -– Upholding an earlier trial court decision, a California Appeals Court on June 16 held that Avis Rent A Car wasn't liable for injuries suffered in an accident caused by someone driving an Avis car stolen from Oakland International Airport.

According to court documents, Andre Jones suffered serious injuries after the driver of a stolen Avis rental car collided with either a telephone pole or traffic signal. The collision sent debris flying through the air, puncturing the wall of a house and hitting Jones in the face as he sat in the house. Jones sued Avis and Guardsmark, a security company that monitored Avis' lot at the time, to recover for his injuries.

Avis used two lots at Oakland International Airport –- one shared by five other car rental companies and one used by Avis alone to clean and refuel returned vehicles. Even Jones conceded that Avis' own lot was "especially secure," and that the car was most likely stolen from the lot shared with other companies.

"We agree with the trial court that Jones could not establish the 'special circumstances' required to hold Avis liable for his injuries," said Judge Joanne C. Parrilli in her written opinion. Parrilli also noted that the lot was fenced and guarded, and that Avis did not leave keys in the ignition, unlike some of the other rental companies using the same lot.

In addition, the court found that Jones failed to establish that he and Guardsmark had a "special relationship" that justified holding the security company responsible for the consequences of criminal conduct by third parties.

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