Federal Judge Declares Federal Rental Car Immunity Provision Unconstitutional
Last week, two important victories were scored in the fight to protect the justice rights of all Floridians. In two decisions with far reaching implications for federal preemption and vicarious liability, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida declared the federal rental car immunity statute, 49 U.S.C. §30106 (commonly known as the Graves Amendment) unconstitutional. That 2005 provision, which was slipped into a 900-page transportation appropriations bill, gave immunity to automobile rental agencies for harm caused by their vehicles.
The landmark decisions were handed down by United States District Judge K. Michael Moore. Judge Moore found that the Graves Amendment directly indicates an intention to preempt state law and exceeds Congress' authority under the Commerce Clause. The decisions give rental car companies a powerful incentive to ensure that their customers are adequately insured, helping to protect victims of car accidents with rented or leased vehicles. They could also have widespread repercussions regarding the federal government's preemption powers.