There have been several lawsuits in recent memory involving car rental companies and tort liability arising from negligence and disingenuous sales practices. Additionally, as different types of car rental companies and technologies are being introduced (i.e. peer-to-peer), jurisdictions are using the courts to help define these new business models to determine if they represent a different way individuals can rent cars.
Here are a few recent lawsuits involving car rental companies.
Enterprise Rent-A-Car Defective Vehicle Lawsuit
The car rental company Enterprise Rent-A-Car — part of the Enterprise Holdings group that also owns Alamo Rent-A-Car and National Car Rental — admitted in a California court its failure to properly inspect a Chrysler P/T Cruiser involved in an accident that resulted in the death of two women. The case, filed in the Superior Court of California in Alameda County — Charles T. Houck and Carol S. Houck v. DaimlerChrysler Corporation, et al. No. HE05220018, 2005 — involved two sisters who rented a 2004 P/T Cruiser from Capitola, California. The vehicle, driven by the older sister Raechel Houck, 24, on October 7, 2004, crossed a grassy median and crashed into a Southbound truck rig, killing Raechel and her younger sister Jacqueline, 20, as they were on their way to visit their mother.
The lawyers for Enterprise argued that Raechel’s driving was the cause of the fiery crash that killed the sisters, although Daimler Chryler has issued a recall notice on the same vehicle earlier in the year for all 2002-2005 models. The subject of the recall was a leaky power steering hose that was associated with vehicle fires. Although the manager at the rental location claimed he was unaware that the vehicle was the subject of a recall, the company was found liable. The jury awarded $15 million to the parents of the deceased sisters.
Dollar Thrifty Automotive High Pressure Sales Tactics
Traveler Steve Roberts was surprised to find a charge of $135 for a loss damage waiver (LDW) related to his recent rental from the Thrifty Rent-A-Car location in at the Tampa Bay-St. Petersburg airport. Roberts explicitly remembers asking the counter clerk if he was being charged the LDW, as such coverage was provided by his credit card and auto insurance. Unable to reach anyone with Thrifty or their parent, Dollar Thrifty Automobile Group, Roberts filed a lawsuit seeking damages. His lawsuit is among a pattern of lawsuits filed by other renters who believe they were victims of high-pressure sales tactics by Dollar Thrifty. The case is part of a class action — Friedman, et al. vs. Dollar Thrifty Automobile Group, et al. No. 12-CV-2432-WYD-KMT, 2012 — filed in United States District Court for the District of Colorado.
FlightCar and San Francisco City Attorney
A case from San Francisco involves the definition of a car rental agency and whether peer-to-peer car sharing companies must meet the same standards as traditional car rental companies. This past June, the San Francisco city attorney filed suit against car sharing business FlightCar over a cease and desist order to stop the company from operating at the airport as long as the company refuses to obtain a commercial ground transportation permit (CGTP). FlightCar argues that its business model differs from traditional rental companies and that they should not be required to obtain a CGTP to transact business near the airport. The case is State of California vs. Flightcar Inc., et al. No. CGC 13-531807, 2013).
Alan Kramer is a freelance writer who focuses on law, finance & insurance. Those preparing to procure a rental vehicle should consider viewing the car rental insurance brand Protect Your Bubble.