In a landmark decision, a national court rejected the use of the Graves Amendment in a civil suit against the owner of a vehicle in an accident. The Graves Amendment is a federal statute that protects truck and car rental companies from being held liable when operators get into accidents. This decision comes out of the U.S. Federal Court: Western District of New York.
In the case, which stems from a 2009 accident, the driver of the truck was watching pornography at the time of the crash. He lost control of his vehicle, careening into a parking lot and striking and killing a 33-year old woman. Originally, the Western District ruled that the Graves Amendment would protect defendants like the driver’s employer (Millis Transfer, Inc.), the owner of the tractor-trailer (Great River Leasing LLC) and their parent company (Midwest Holding Group, LLC). Judge Richard Arcara’s choice to overrule the initial decision and remove protections from the Graves Amendment marks a first since the law was introduced nine years ago.
Proponents of Arcara’s decision say that trucking companies have changed the structure of their operations over the years to take advantage of the protections afforded to them under the Graves Amendment. This has allowed them to avoid vicarious liability statutes in states like New York.
The precedent set by this decision is big news for people who are injured in accidents with negligent drivers operating trucks or rental cars. Now, plaintiffs will be able to seek additional damages in their cases, and seek punitive damages against the companies liable for the accident.
For developing information about this important case, or to learn more about taking legal action after suffering injury in a car or truck accident in New York City, consult an attorney.