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A Jeep Wrangler with a manual transmission is at the heart of a tragic and vexing legal dispute in Michigan that has ensnared an owner who was nowhere near his car when it was involved in a fatal accident.

The 2019 Wrangler was having its oil changed at Rochester Hills Chrysler Jeep Dodge in Michigan on March 13, 2020, when a 19-year old mechanic who neither had a license nor knew how to operate a vehicle with a manual gearbox turned the vehicle on in order to let it run. Court documents indicate that the mechanic then took his foot off the clutch while it was in gear, causing it to lurch forward and run over another mechanic, Jeffrey Hawkins, instantly killing him.
The matter has drawn national attention because the family of the deceased mechanic is suing Sergio Enrique Diaz-Navarro, the owner of the car who handed it in to be serviced, accusing him of being “vicariously liable for the negligent acts,” reports the Kansas City Star. David Femminineo, the attorney representing the Hawkins estate, has argued that the situation is similar to an owner’s responsibility when they lend their car to a friend. The reality of the situation is even more complicated than that, though.
Why they’re really suing the car’s owner

Femminineo told Automotive News that, although Hawkins’ family actually wants to sue the dealership that was performing the oil change, it has been forced into this situation by Michigan legislation that prevents employees from suing their employer for accidents that happen in the workplace. The law also says that a dealership is not liable for the acts of the people who drive a vehicle with the owner’s permission.
The dealership is not getting away scot-free, though. Rochester Hill Chrysler Dodge has been ordered by the court to indemnify Diaz-Navarro if he is found liable of negligence. That means that “in reality, the owner is going to be held responsible, but the dealership’s insurance company is paying,” according to Femminineo, who added that the plaintiffs hoped to be awarded in excess of $15 million.
Read Also: Man Faces Up To Six Years In Prison After Hitting School Bus While Racing His Ford Mustang
Diaz-Navarro is said to have no active negligence, and records say he has offered $100,000 in policy limits as he agrees he “is liable for damages under the owner’s liability statute.” The court, though, has ruled he is entitled to compensation and, as it stands, the dealership and the other mechanic will be held liable for any awarded damages and attorney fees in the case.
The dealership, however, is going to appeal the indemnity ruling, reports Fox2Detroit. If it wins, Navarro-Diaz could be responsible for all of the money awarded to the Hawkins family. His attorney told the outlet that they intend to fight the case in a trial at the end of this month.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
the law is an ass
Said of a law that one thinks is unnecessary or ridiculous. The phrase comes from Charles Dickens' novel Oliver Twist: "The law is a ass—an idiot."
 
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