Case details

Rental company claimed car stolen prior to hit-and-run crash





Result type

Not present

sensory, speech, vertigo
On Aug. 9, 2009, plaintiff Debra Pruitt, an unemployed 55 year old, was driving on Home Avenue in San Diego while accompanied by her daughter, plaintiff Jenny Ortiz, 19, in the left rear passenger seat. At approximately 10:30 a.m., near the 805 Freeway, their vehicle was allegedly sideswiped by a hit-and-run driver. Pruitt and Ortiz were able to write down the license plate number, and a police investigation later determined that vehicle was from an Avis rental lot at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas. Avis contended that the car was stolen, and it was confirmed by a San Diego detective that investigated the matter. Pruitt and Ortiz claimed neck and back as a result of the crash. Pruitt and Ortiz sued Avis Budget Car Rental, LLC and Avis Budget Group Inc. They alleged that Avis was liable under permissive use, as well as general negligence. The parties waived their right to a jury trial. Thus, the matter proceeded to a bench trial. Plaintiffs’ counsel contended that Avis permitted the driver to operate the vehicle, and that it was most likely an Avis employee. Counsel further contended that there was no proof that the vehicle was stolen or tampered with, and that the Las Vegas Police Department never determined the car was stolen from the Avis facility. Thus, counsel argued that Avis was liable for the driver involved in the hit-and-run sideswipe collision. Avis claimed that it timely reported the car stolen after an internal investigation reflected that it was not out on rental and that there was no other viable explanation for the vehicle’s absence from the Las Vegas facility. It claimed, in due course, that a stolen vehicle report was filed with the Las Vegas Police Department. Avis further contended that it had ample security at the lot in question. Upon completion of the plaintiffs’ case in chief, defense counsel moved for nonsuit on liability, claiming that the plaintiffs failed to establish any viable liability theory. Counsel contended that the plaintiff could not identify the driver, could not controvert the stolen vehicle report, and failed to establish permissive use and/or any independent negligence on the part of Avis., Pruitt and Ortiz, who claimed they were on the way to the doctor for prior at the time of the accident, treated with a chiropractor for soft-tissue strains and sprains of their neck and back. Ortiz additionally claimed that she suffers from vertigo and fainting spells as a result of the crash. They each treated with five months of chiropractic care. Pruitt and Ortiz claimed that they both experience continued pain and discomfort in their neck and back. Pruitt claimed the have prohibited her from finding new work, while Ortiz claimed she is now limited in playing sports. Thus, Pruitt claimed approximately $6,487 in past medical costs, while Ortiz claimed $5,502 in past medical costs. Pruitt further sought $1,700 in past lost earnings, and each plaintiff sought recovery of damages for their pain and suffering. Defense counsel contended that the accident was of relatively minor impact, only leaving a “grapefruit size” dent on the plaintiffs’ vehicle. Thus, counsel argued that there was no mechanism for serious injury in the accident, and that the plaintiffs were only suffering from pre-existing .
Superior Court of San Diego County, San Diego, CA

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