Kevin Mitchell, a New York Resident rented a 2000 Dodge Durango from Budget-Rent-A-Car in Hartford, Connecticut on May 26, 2000. Budget-Rent-A-Car is a Delaware company where the main offices are in Illinois. The vehicle is registered in Connecticut under Team Fleet Financing Corporation, which is also a Delaware company with the main offices in Illinois. The following day Mr. Mitchell was driving the car on Route I-81 in Ryan Township, Pennsylvania with Tahani Roper, Tracy Brown and Thais Mitchell as passengers. A witness said in an attempt to over-take another vehicle, the car swerved of the road, hit a guardrail and went down an embankment. The vehicle flipped multiple times, which caused some of the passengers to be thrown out of the vehicle. Tahani Roper, an infant died instantly. Tracy Brown, the baby’s mother, and Thais Mitchell claim to have been seriously injured.
After the accident, Tracy Brown and Thais Mitchell filed a case in the New York Supreme Court against Kevin Mitchell, Budget-Rent-A-Car and Team Fleet Financing Corporation. Thais Mitchell appeared for himself and Tahani Roper, the baby who died. As for the defendants, their allegation was that Budget-Rent-A-Car and Team Fleet Financing Corporation were also liable for the careless driving of Mr. Mitchell.
Under the New York law, there is an explicit liability that is given to the vehicle owners for the negligence of driver’s who are using the vehicle with the owner’s permission. It does not matter if the accident occurs outside New York according to a Lawyer. With this in mind, you would think that Budget-Rent-A-Car and Team Fleet Financing Corporation are accountable for the accident.
Budget-Rent-A-Car and Team Fleet Financing Corporation in response to the allegations against them filed a motion for summary judgment. In their defense, they cited the choice of law principles whereby Pennsylvania’s laws will be the one applicable to this case. In Pennsylvania law, the owner’s are not liable for the driver’s neglect unless the driver is employed by the owner.
What the court did first was to determine if there was really a conflict with the laws of the different jurisdictions involved. If there wasn’t then there is no need to go into the choice of law analysis. It was mentioned by a source that the court determined it was New York, Pennsylvania and Illinois laws that need to be checked. Illinois was the one placed because that was the primary place of business for the two companies.
As mentioned, in New York the owners are liable with the driver for any negligent act while driving their vehicle. In Pennsylvania, contrary to New York’s the owner is not liable unless the driver was employed by the owner. According to a source, for Illinois the owners are not liable for the accident due to the carelessness of the drivers. The choice of law has been applied to older case after the court of appeals stopped using the stiff law of jurisdiction or where it happened. Now it is determined by which state affects the case more. In a case cited by the court, it was assigned to New York because the vehicles were registered in New York and insured in New York even if the driver was from New Jersey. The plaintiff was also from New York. In this case, the only relation of the case to New York was, it was where the plaintiffs and one defendant who was the driver live in Brooklyn, New York. The other two defendants have their main place in Illinois. They decided to apply the Neumeier rules which look at the vested interests, where the case is centered and where the interest of the government lies. The court’s decision was that the Pennsylvania laws apply. Therefore, the summary judgment was granted in favor of Budget-Rent-A-Car and Team Fleet Financing Corporation. They are not liable.
There are a lot of cases like this for car accidents that involve a lot of States. Determining which law applies is not that easy determine. When you lose a loved one specially one so young, you would want the severest law to apply but the courts will always go for what is just. A New York Car Crash Lawyer is the one who will be able to show the court what parts if the case connects it back to New York giving you a better position.
With Stephen Bilkis & Associates’ Car Crash Lawyers, you know that everything is done to place the case in your home court. They will be the ones to defend your position and present it so you can get all the damages that is due to you. If you have been involved in a car crash call us at 1-800 NY – NY- LAW, and we start work as soon as we talk to you. We handle cases from anyone in New York and Long Island.