Is our legal system asleep at the wheel?
June 15, 2002 7:02 AM   Subscribe

Is our legal system asleep at the wheel? A Michigan auto dealership that failed to complete the title transfer on a car involved in a fatal accident has been hit with a $12 million jury verdict.
posted by Fofer (12 comments total)
Sue 'em all! It's the American way.
posted by eas98 at 7:48 AM on June 15, 2002

I'm going to sue you for impugning my nation's way, eas98!
posted by rushmc at 8:24 AM on June 15, 2002

I can't read the article because of cookies, but it sounds like the legal system is working. I don't want to live in a society where our one course of redress is taken from us. Everyone has the right to sue.
posted by fleener at 8:46 AM on June 15, 2002

fleener, everyone has the right to an opinion too, but c'mon, read the article before piping in, please. That's not too much to ask. (You can reject the cookie and still read the article safely.)

Sure, everyone has the right to sue... but is the AUTO DEALERSHIP to blame for a customer's drunk driving?
posted by Fofer at 9:20 AM on June 15, 2002

Here in Minnesota, getting the state to update a vehicle record can take forever. Just waiting for the Dept. of Vehicle Services to cash my check for the fee has taken over a month.
posted by gimonca at 9:46 AM on June 15, 2002

Hmm. Read it carefully. The dealership held off the purchase so that they could get his loan business -- or probably a kickback of some sort -- and then some dipstick gave him the keys to the car, which still belonged to them. Basically it's as if some guy walked in off the street and they said, "sure, here's the keys, bring it back soon!" If they'd just sold him the car based on his existing loan, no problem.

A little tricky, but the ruling is technically correct. The dealer could also have settled, but they thought they could ride on this paperwork argument. yahright.
posted by dhartung at 9:51 AM on June 15, 2002

Thank you, Dhartung. Amidst those who seem eager to criticize our jury system, you managed to rise above the knee-jerk reactions and see that the system did was not "asleep at the wheel" here. The vehicle belonged to the dealership and the law of Michigan (and most other states) holds the owner liable. This time, a little mistake had a big consequence. It wasn't the little paperwork mistake that cost the (probably insured) dealership $12 million, it was the fact that one of its vehicles resulted in a near decapitation.
posted by kcmoryan at 3:02 PM on June 15, 2002

title in michigan is king so to say. My first auto accident involved a friend whom purchased a yellow pinto. (I advised the S-10) The dealer allowed him to use his dealer plate to go retrieve his own plate. half-way out the lot-CRASH, dipstick stalled ("I can drive stick"-infamous almost last words). The dealer had to eat all the cost, including the hospital bill.
posted by clavdivs at 3:49 PM on June 15, 2002

Pray tell, has the person who *chose* to become drunk and *chose* to drive, taken responsibility for his choices? Or has he managed to *profit* by his poor choices?
posted by five fresh fish at 4:43 PM on June 15, 2002

I hate driving. It might be because I am just learning to do it after all of these years on foot. I just never really cared for cars, but more and more, it seems necesary. The fact is, is that the guy who was driving was a total nutjob. He never should have had the car in his possession. The car dealership should never have released any vehicle they were still in possession of to this guy. But they did. They owned the car. They were at fault.

But it is good that the driver got punished as well. It's nutjobs like this that make me not want to get on the road.
posted by benjh at 5:47 PM on June 15, 2002

fff: er, he's in jail for 15 years and will be deported when he gets out. i'd say that he's been held accountable for his bad choices.

having said that, i think the MI law about the owner being responsible for the actions of the driver is kind of sketchy. there's a common law doctrine called "negligent entrustment" that allows an owner for be sued for entrusting a dangerous object (like a car) to a person that it was reasonably foreseeable would harm someone with it. that is certainly a reasonable legal doctrine. the MI law, in contrast, seems to provide that any entrustment of a dangerous object is automatically negligent if it causes harm regardless of whether that harm was foreseeable. that just seems absurd. the dealership may have been negligent in doing the proper paperwork, but, unless there are other facts that we don't know, it couldn't have known that the driver actually posed a danger to others. it seems kind of perverse to hold them liable for something that was beyond their power to foresee.
posted by boltman at 8:08 PM on June 15, 2002

Boltman: ah, good, cool. Rightly so. Couldn't read the article itself; I thought the driver had won the case. Thank goodness it wasn't quite that absurd.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:05 AM on June 16, 2002

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