Florida Statute Section 324.021(9)(b)2 imposes vicarious liability on short-term lessors of motor vehicles but places caps on the amount of damages for which short-term lessors can be held vicariously liable. The Graves Amendment, enacted in 2005, sought to elimate vicarious liability for those "engaged in the trade or business of renting or leasing motor vehicles." 49 U.S.C. §30106(a)(1). These two statutes were directly at odds with each other. Proponents of the Graves Amendment argued that the federal law preempted Florida state law and provided protection for rental car companies. Opponents of the Graves Amendment argued that Florida Statute §324.021(9)(b)2 was a financial responsbility law and was thus exempt from federal preemption as same fell within the savings clause of the Graves Amendment.
On April 21, 2011, the Florida Supreme Court held that the Graves Amendment preempts Florida Statute §324.021(9)(b)2 and is constitutional. Vargas v. Enterprise Leasing Co., 36 Fla.L.Weekly S187a (Fla. April 21, 2011). This case effectively eliminates actions against rental car companies by people who have been injured in car accidents. Due to Florida's large tourism industry, the need for short-term rental cars for visitors to our state is high. These visitors are often uninsured or underinsured while they drive cars owned by rental car companies. Today's decision by the Supreme Court will have a tremendous impact on
car accident victims and their ability to seek just compensation for their injuries when they are involved in accidents with short-term lessees driving rental cars.