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NEW LAW REDUCES AUTO RENTAL LIABILITY Tucked inside the recently signed $287 billion federal transportation funding act is a “tort reform” provision eliminating vicarious liability laws applying to auto rental and leasing companies in 16 states and the District of Columbia. The provision, opposed by the National Conference of State Legislators and some consumer groups, was authored by Rep. Sam Graves, R-Mo. It prohibits states from holding owners of motor vehicle rental and leasing companies liable for accidents involving their vehicles, provided there is no negligence or criminal wrongdoing on the owners’ part. States whose vicarious liability statutes are pre-empted are Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Maine, Nevada, New York, California, Florida, Idaho, Michigan, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Rhode Island. Under those state laws, owners of leasing or rental companies could be held liable for injuries caused by a negligent driver if the driver did not have sufficient insurance coverage. The provision is the culmination of a 10-year lobbying effort by various transportation groups, said Thomas James, vice president for government relations for the Truck Renting and Leasing Association. A similar provision reached President Clinton’s desk in 1996 as part of a larger products liability bill, which Clinton subsequently vetoed. � The National Law Journal

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