The Car and Truck Fleet and Leasing Management Magazine

Rhode Island Supreme Court Rules Lessors Liable for Vicarious Liability

April 23, 2002

The Rhode Island Supreme Court ruled that companies that lease vehicles can be sued for vicarious liability if the vehicles cause injuries in an accident. The plaintiffs argued that long-term motor vehicle lessors are owners just like private owners or rental companies, and are, thereby, statutorily subject to vicarious liability for the negligence of drivers who operate their vehicles with their consent, just as any owner would be. The Rhode Island Supreme Court agreed, finding for the plaintiffs. “We conclude that short-term rental agencies, long-term leasing companies, and motor-vehicle financing corporations are subject to liability . . . as the owners of motor vehicles,” wrote Justice Robert Flanders Jr. for the court, citing two vicarious liability statutes, §31-33-6 and 31-34-4.
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