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Last year I rented approximately 12 cars. This year I plan to rent just as many. I enjoy renting because there is far less wear and tear on my own car. I am also in the market for a new vehicle. So, renting allows me to do more than just test drive a car, I get to spend a few days with a potential car. Honestly, my joy of renting goes far beyond testing cars. When I pull up to my local Enterprise location I channel Ryan Bingham from the film “Up in the Air.” They sometimes allow me to choose my own car, and it feels almost Godlike. Maybe I take things a bit too far at the rental agency, but it’s one of my few joys in life. I recently found out some troubling news that made renting a little less majestic. Until the spring of last year, rental car companies did not have to abide by recall notices. In other words, they could rent cars to people that were possibly dangerous.
First the good news; it’s no longer allowed. It’s federal law now that a rental car company must fix any recalled car before it’s rented out to the public. Once again, until the late spring of 2016, it was common practice to rent defective cars to individuals. In the past, there were several cases of individuals dying as a result of renting a recalled car. However, the case that eventually led to the federal law occurred 10 years ago. In 2004 Raechel and Jacqueline Houck were killed when the cabin of their rented Chrysler PT Cruiser when it filled with the smoke. The driver was blinded by the smoke, lost control, crossed the median, and struck a semi truck. The parents of the victims sued Enterprise Rent-a-Car citing negligence. The PT Cruiser was involved in a recall one month prior to the rental. There was an issue with a leaky power steering hose that could result in a fire. That is what occurred with these two victims, and eventually, Enterprise admitted to their wrongdoing. In 2010 the parents were awarded $15 million dollars in damages.
If you’re reading this, you’ve likely dealt with a safety recall before. Most people know that the cost of these repairs are covered by the manufacturer. This includes the recall issued by Chrysler back in 2004 for the PT Cruiser. If that is the case, why didn’t Enterprise have the vehicle fixed? The following was originally published in a findlaw.com blog in 2010:
According to a sworn statement by Mark Matias, manager of Enterprise’s Northern California area, it was regular company procedure to go ahead and rent a recalled car, even before the repair work had been done. Matais said the known company policy was this, “you’ve got to keep booking because you don’t know when you are going to get a car back. But then, of course, you run short on vehicles, and if all you have are recalled vehicles on the lot, you rent them out. It was a given. The whole company did it.”
Matais concluded, “If a priority recall appears on the computer screen in the rental office, the employee is required to write the word ‘recall’ on a Post-it note and place it on the key in an area designated for non-rentals, but nothing prevents an employee from renting that vehicle.”
Twelve years later, thanks in part to efforts made by the parents of Raechel and Jacqueline Houck, it’s illegal for a rental company with more than 35 cars in their fleet to rent you a defective car. Unfortunately, it’s not illegal for a dealer to sell you a car with recall notices.
If you’ve been injured because of a defective vehicle, give us a call today for a free consultation and take some time to learn about the services we offer. Our toll-free number is 1-877-526-3457. If you can’t talk now, fill out this form, and we’ll call you at a better time.
Jan Dils, Attorneys at Law