Tucked into the massive $286.4 billion highway reauthorization bill earmarked for President Bush’s signature this week is a long-awaited win for an effort spearheaded by the truck renting and leasing industry – federal legislation prohibiting the bringing of vicarious liability or “liability without fault” suits against vehicle renting and leasing firms.
“This is a huge victory for the vehicle renting and leasing industry,” said Mark Siegal, president & CEO of Edart NationaLease in Hartford, CT, and chairman of the Truck Renting & Leasing Association (TRALA). “Consumers and businesses will benefit enormously from passage of this legislation with lower costs … and our industry will save billions of dollars that would otherwise be spent on litigation.
He added that, although the vast majority of states do not allows vicarious liability, those that do create a serious nationwide problem for both renting and leasing firms and their customers. “In a few states, companies can be subject to unlimited liability, without any allegation of negligence on the part of the company,” Siegal said.
“This has been a long-fought battle,” said Peter Vroom, TRALA’s president & CEO. “We have been successful in reforming vicarious liability laws at the state level for many years. But with the interstate nature of our national rental and lease fleets, federal action was essential to create uniformity that no state can impose vicarious liability. This is simply common sense tort reform. Renting and leasing companies that put safe vehicles in the hand of eligible drivers should not be held liable for actions over which they have no control.”