The Truck Renting and Leasing Association (TRALA) and a coalition of allies succeeded in their efforts to stop a repeal of the Graves Amendment, which prohibits states from imposing vicarious liability on owners of rented and leased vehicles.
The industry victory came when the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee completed work on legislation without including an amendment repealing the Graves Amendment sought in May by committee member Congressman Bruce Braley (D-Iowa).
The Graves Amendment (49 US 30106) was passed in August 2005 as part of the SAFETEA-LU highway bill. It created a uniform standard against liability without fault by preempting state vicarious liability laws imposing liability on non-negligent leasing and renting companies. Since its enactment into law, the highest courts in several states, including New York, Florida and Minnesota, have upheld its authority. Federal circuit courts and the U.S. Court of Appeals have also ruled in support of the Graves Law.
In May, Congressman Braley's intended to offer an amendment to the Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 2010 to repeal the Graves Amendment. The TRALA, other industry associations, rental companies and vehicle manufacturers formed a diverse coalition that stood in opposition to Braley's amendment. TRALA also coordinated with the offices of Congressmen Graves (R-MS), Boucher (D-VA), and Blunt (R-MS) to educate Energy and Commerce Committee members about the Graves Law's provisions that hold negligent vehicle operators liable for their own actions.
"The trial lawyers have been busy in the courts, state legislatures and the U.S. Congress trying to overturn the common sense provisions of the Graves Law," said TRALA President and CEO Tom James. "Non-negligent vehicle renting and leasing companies should not be held liable without fault and the courts and the Congress agree."
James added that the exclusion of the Braley amendment illustrates the strength of the coalition.