The Car and Truck Fleet and Leasing Management Magazine

Florida Appeals Court Again Upholds Federal Authority Over State Vicarious Liability Laws

December 18, 2007

ALEXANDRIA, VA – The constitutionality of the federal law eliminating vicarious liability (the Graves Amendment) was upheld this week by a Florida Court of Appeals. Florida’s Third District Court of Appeals on Dec. 12 upheld the preemptive authority of the Graves Amendment (49US30106) over state vicarious liability laws in the Bechina vs. Enterprise case.

The appellate court affirmed last April, a decision by the 11th Circuit Court for final summary judgment in favor of Enterprise Leasing Company. In its opinion, the appellate court held that “motor vehicle leasing transactions unquestionably affect the channels of interstate commerce, the instrumentalities of interstate commerce, and intrastate activities substantially related to interstate commerce.”

Truck Renting and Leasing Association (TRALA) and its Industry Council on Vehicle Renting and Leasing filed an amicus brief with the Third District Court of Appeals on the Bechina case. In support of Enterprise’s position, TRALA’s brief argued that Congress was well within its authority when it preempted state vicarious liability laws through the Graves Amendment. The TRALA brief was filed in September 2007.

The positive ruling on the Graves Amendment’s constitutionality is the second time that Florida’s Third District Court of Appeals has upheld the authority of the federal law. The first was last October, when it affirmed a decision by the 11th Circuit Court in favor of Avis Rent-A-Car System in the appeal of the Kumarsingh v. Avis case. TRALA and its Industry Council on Vehicle Renting and Leasing also filed an amicus brief in support of Avis’ position in this case.

TRALA, joined by some industry allies, has filed amicus briefs in five major cases involving the Graves Amendment. These include cases in the U.S. Court of Appeals, Florida Circuit Courts, Florida District Court of Appeals and the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of New York. The two positive decisions in Florida for which TRALA submitted amicus briefs are the only of these five cases that have been decided at the appellate level.

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