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Truck Renting and Leasing Association

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Georgia Supreme Court Rules In Favor of TRALA on Liability Case

Yesterday, May 3, 2021, the Supreme Court of Georgia handed TRALA and its member company, Avis Budget, a significant victory in a case that had threatened to undo both precedent and the Graves Law. 

In Johnson v. Avis Rent a Car System, the Supreme Court of Georgia ruled in favor of Avis Budget by affirming the Appeals Court's opinion statement that a rental company is not negligent or liable for someone stealing a car and ultimately causing an accident in which two people were badly hurt.
 
TRALA had filed an amicus brief in partnership with the American Car Rental Association (ACRA) in November of 2020 in support of Avis Budget. At the core of the case was whether a rental company is responsible/liable for illegal actions taken by someone who had worked at the rental company, regardless of whether they were a full-time employee or an independent contractor. In this case, Byron Perry had worked as a car washer and stole an SUV from an Avis Budget facility, went to try and sell the stolen car, was spotted and then pursued by police resulting in a high-speed chase, and eventually ran into a wall where two innocent bystanders had been sitting, injuring both. The injured parties sued Avis Budget (among others) for negligence and vicarious liability. Separate juries found the plaintiffs were entitled to damages, but they were reversed by the Court of Appeals in Georgia. The plaintiffs then appealed to the state Supreme Court.

One of the key elements for the Georgia Supreme Court was to decide was whether the “color of employment” was a factor in the case, and they found it was not but instead, the criminal act (stealing the SUV and evading police) was the cause of the injuries suffered by the plaintiffs. The court rightly found that these actions were not related to his duties acting on behalf of Avis Budget but were an intervening act which had no bearing on his employment.
 
TRALA welcomes this judgment as the alternative would have set a horrible precedent that could impact not only rental companies but anyone that may have a vehicle stolen and then have that vehicle involved in an accident resulting in liability for damages.
 
You may find the court's decision by clicking here.
 
You may view the amicus brief filed by TRALA and ACRA here.
 
If you have any questions regarding this case and court decision, please contact Jake Jacoby at jjacoby@trala.org
 
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