Budget Loses Vicarious Liability Case in N.Y.

NEW YORK -- The New York State Supreme Court has ruled against Budget Rent A Car and upheld a $20.3 million award in a vicarious liability case arising from a Nov. 29, 2000, accident in lower Manhattan that left a man paralyzed.

The judgment follows a year of post-trial challenges by Budget to overturn or reduce the $24.5 million that a jury awarded the plaintiff, Ethan Ruby, in Dec. 2003. The Supreme Court reduced the judgment from $24.5 million to $20.3 million, ruling that Ruby's attorneys failed to establish a need for some of the tests and medical treatments that they factored into Ruby's future healthcare expenses.

According to court testimony, the accident occurred after the driver of a Budget rental car ran a red light and collided with a van that careened into the crosswalk at Delancy and Orchard streets, where Ruby was legally crossing the street on foot.

New York state law stipulates that car rental companies, as owners of their vehicles, are liable for their customers' negligence in accidents involving injury or death to a third party. The $20.3 million award takes into account Ruby's loss of earnings, medical costs, and pain and suffering. At the time of the accident, Ruby was 25.

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