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A Car Rental Company by Any Other Name . . .

From this morning's New York Law Journal comes a report on a case decided by a New York trial court, holding that Zipcar, the "car-sharing" service currently operating in 50 cities and 100 universities around the country, is shielded from vicarious liability for accidents involving its vehicles.

The decision, Minto v. Zipcar (.pdf), is notable because it grants Zipcar the protections of the Graves Amendment, which shields from liability companies "engaged in the trade or business of renting or leasing motor vehicles." The plaintiff argued Zipcar didn't qualify, based largely on its own advertising, in which it goes to great lengths to distinguish itself from car rental companies, using such tag lines as "Car rental is so last century," and "You could rent a car (but that would be silly)."

The court didn't buy it, holding that, whatever Zipcar might call itself, the very marketing claims relied upon by the plaintiff demonstrate that it does compete with traditional rental car companies, and there was no basis to treat it differently. According to the NYLJ, this is the first case addressing the applicability of the Graves Amendment to car-sharing services.

Posted by Eric Lipman on June 15, 2010 at 02:02 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)


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