Appellate Win Interpreting Graves Amendment with National Implications

Orlando Partner, Therese A. Savona, obtained affirmance by federal appellate court on a case of first impression for federal appellate courts interpreting the Graves Amendment, which will likely have positive national implications. The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed an order granting summary judgment in favor of a car dealership that provided a loaner vehicle to a customer while the customer’s vehicle received repairs and services from the dealership. While using the loaner vehicle, the customer caused a car accident and crashed into the plaintiff’s vehicle. The plaintiff sued the car dealership under Florida’s dangerous instrumentality doctrine and the dealership asserted the litigation was barred under the Graves Amendment.  In moving for final summary judgment, the dealership argued the loaner vehicle was rented or leased by the customer, with the cost of the rental included in the cost of repairs and services provided by the dealership. The District Court agreed.

On appeal, the plaintiff argued that the loaner vehicle was not rented or leased under the Graves Amendment because money was not specifically exchanged for the rental of the dealership vehicle. The plaintiff also argued the Eleventh Circuit should follow other state cases where the lower court ruled differently. Lastly, the plaintiff argued that the word “rental” or “loaner” was determinative of how the appellate court should view the dealership’s vehicle.

A three-judge panel of the Eleventh Circuit disagreed with the plaintiff’s positions, and found that consideration was provide by the customer by way of the payment of repairs and services. The appellate court rejected the plaintiff’s narrow position that it must only be an exchange of money, and rejected turning its analysis on the terms “rental” or “loaner.”

Therese A. Savona
(321) 972-0071

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