When you hand over your keys to an auto repair shop, the last thing you expect is that you’ll end up as a defendant in a lawsuit.
A red 2019 Wrangler with a manual transmission required maintenance services for an oil change and tire rotation. The Jeep was taken to a Michigan car dealership.
Jeffrey Hawkins, a 42-year-old mechanic who was working on the service, was shoved against a cabinet. He was rushed to the hospital with life-threatening injuries and he was pronounced dead.
Sergio Enrique Diaz-Navarro, the owner of the Jeep, is now facing a lawsuit stating that he is “vicariously liable for the negligent acts” of technician Daniel Aleczander Thompson when his use of the vehicle led to the death of Hawkins.
Thompson, who had been working for the company for two months, lowered the Jeep from the lift after completing the service. He then tried to start the vehicle and let it idle, which is done to ensure there are no oil leaks around the filter.
When the vehicle didn’t start, Thompson took his foot off the brake and depressed the clutch pedal. He again hit the start button, this time with the Jeep starting. He removed his foot from the clutch, still standing outside of the vehicle. The vehicle then lurched forward, crushing Hawkins against the cabinet.
Attorney David Femminineo, representing the estate of Hawkins, compared the owner’s responsibility in Hawkins’ death to “when you lend your car to somebody so they can pick up lunch.” If that person were to injure someone with your car, you would be the one liable for any accidents that occurred since you were the one to give permission to drive your vehicle.
Despite the fine print of the law, the dealership and Thompson are liable for any awarded damages and attorney fees.