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bourbon n blues

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MOUNT CLEMENS, Mich. (FOX 2) - A man takes his car for an oil change and gets sued - after his car was involved in a deadly accident killing a worker while at the dealership.

On March 13, 2020, the customer took his car to the Rochester Hills Chrysler Jeep Dodge dealership and a young 19-year-old mechanic attempted to change the oil. But something terrible happened.


"He starts the car, removes his foot from the clutch, and you know what happens? The Jeep jumps and kills my client," said attorney David Femminineo.

The vehicle hit and killed employee Jeffrey Hawkins, a married 42-year-old, father of four, and a lifelong mechanic.


"He was an excellent man," Femminineo said. "The 2-year-old who was about 1 at the time of the accident, the time of the death, he'll never know his father."

Mr. Hawkins died instantly in the accident.

FOX 2: "Did the 19-year-old know how to drive a stick?"

"He didn't know how to drive a stick, and he had no license," the attorney said.

FOX 2: "Why did the dealership hire him?"

"That's what I'd like to know," Femminineo said.

But hold on one minute -

FOX 2: "You must be suing the dealership?"

"We can't because of a legal standard that is involved," the lawyer said.

Jeff-Hawkins.jpg

Jeff Hawkins died in the tragic accident.
That's because the accident happened at work and involved two employees and you can't sue the boss in that situation.

But attorney David Femminineo claims that the person responsible is the owner of the car.

FOX 2: "You're suing the owner of the car who's getting his oil changed who did nothing in this case?"

"I have to do that," Femminineo said.

That's the law. FOX 2 reached out to the car owner's attorney - but he had no comment on pending litigation, other than to say he's going to fight this case in a trial at the end of May.

"When you hand your car over to anybody including the valet or the person at the service desk at your local dealership, you better be able to trust that person," the attorney said.
 

Obliviax

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well, you can file a lawsuit for anything. it is up to the judge to allow it to continue. In this case, I wonder what the liability is on the part of the owner. I mean, if the kid picked up a rock from my garden and hits somebody with it, is the owner of the garden liable?

Backing up, I think the notion that the worker can sue the dealership is BS. I can't imagine that is true. The dealership failed in the hiring and training of an employee which led to a death. I can't imagine there is any such law claiming an employee can't sue the employer if the employer was negligent. Plus, his family can also sue the other employee.

I don't think this article is accurate.
 

bourbon n blues

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well, you can file a lawsuit for anything. it is up to the judge to allow it to continue. In this case, I wonder what the liability is on the part of the owner. I mean, if the kid picked up a rock from my garden and hits somebody with it, is the owner of the garden liable?

Backing up, I think the notion that the worker can sue the dealership is BS. I can't imagine that is true. The dealership failed in the hiring and training of an employee which led to a death. I can't imagine there is any such law claiming an employee can't sue the employer if the employer was negligent. Plus, his family can also sue the other employee.

I don't think this article is accurate.
From the little I know it makes no sense. You can't sue the company or employer who obviously hired an unqualified employee? Or did the worker do something he wasn't allowed to do? And why isn't this a workplace injury? WTF is OSHA or whatever agency that deals with dead guys on the job? I know the local mining company get proctological exams when a worker dies and I'm sure it's a big deal in other businesses even though it might be a different state.
 

Obliviax

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From the little I know it makes no sense. You can't sue the company or employer who obviously hired an unqualified employee? Or did the worker do something he wasn't allowed to do? And why isn't this a workplace injury? WTF is OSHA or whatever agency that deals with dead guys on the job? I know the local mining company get proctological exams when a worker dies and I'm sure it's a big deal in other businesses even though it might be a different state.
Agreed. Even if the employee did something he wasn't supposed to do, it is still on the employer to manage that situation. They are liable. If I rob or injure a client while working, my employee is exposed. The claimant may or may not win but the lawsuit could be filed and adjudicated.
 
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bourbon n blues

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Agreed. Even if the employee did something he wasn't supposed to do, it is still on the employer to manage that situation. They are liable. If I rob or injure a client while working, my employee is exposed. The claimant may or may not win but the lawsuit could be filed and adjudicated.
I'm thinking the lawyer might be FOS and just trying to get attention, maybe other lawsuits were disallowed already?
 
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Obliviax

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I'm thinking the lawyer might be FOS and just trying to get attention, maybe other lawsuits were disallowed already?
Agreed, or just incompetent. I can see the attorney for the car dealership saying "you can't sue the dealership...state law with two employees...good luck with the rest of your case." And some idiot complying with that. In lawsuits I've had, I hear all kinds of stuff like that. IMHO, contracts were made to be broken. Every contract is implicit (or directly states) when a law was broken, the contract no longer applies. This is especially true when there is insurance.
 
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bourbon n blues

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Agreed, or just incompetent. I can see the attorney for the car dealership saying "you can't sue the dealership...state law with two employees...good luck with the rest of your case." And some idiot complying with that. In lawsuits I've had, I hear all kinds of stuff like that. IMHO, contracts were made to be broken. Every contract is implicit (or directly states) when a law was broken, the contract no longer applies. This is especially true when there is insurance.
Like those old permission slips that you can't hold the school district liable. but the bus driver was drunk, the mechanic who worked on the bus was high , and kids got hurt because of that.
 
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LafayetteBear

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How isn't this workman's compensation? Or liability of the company?
That's precisely why the plaintiff is not suing the dealership. The dealership was the decedent's employer, and his death, tragic as it was, occurred "in the course and scope of" his work. Therefore, the decedent (and his estate) have no recourse against the dealership beyond a workers comp claim.

The guy who brought his car in to be serviced was not the decedent's employer, so he can be sued. But that doesn't mean the plaintiff will win. In fact, on the facts presented, the plaintiff does not have a ghost of a chance of winning, and the lawsuit strikes me as frivolous.

A more common context where you see a plaintiff (who is injured in the course and scope of his work) suing a third party is the construction context, where the plaintiff is the employee of the general contractor, and is injured while on the job. He has only a workers comp claim against his employer (the general contractor), but he wants to recover damages over and above the workers compensation maximum (which can in many cases be low - a tradeoff for not having to prove the defendant employer's liability). He therefore looks for third parties to sue, and settles on the owner of the real property where construction was occurring (and where he got injured), usually asserting that the property owner somehow created one or more "unsafe" conditions that caused or contributed to his injury. Those cases are typically difficult to win in the absence of some pretty compelling negligence on the part of the property owner.
 

BW Lion

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This is a better, more informative article. The vehicle owner will be defended and indemnified by the dealership's insurance, which will ultimately have to foot the monetary damages.

 
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bourbon n blues

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This is a better, more informative article. The vehicle owner will be defended and indemnified by the dealership's insurance, which will ultimately have to foot the monetary damages.

Thanks for that.
 

LafayetteBear

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This is a better, more informative article. The vehicle owner will be defended and indemnified by the dealership's insurance, which will ultimately have to foot the monetary damages.

If the facts presented in the article that the OP linked are accurate, I strongly suspect that there won't be any money damages for the dealership's insurer to pay. The liability of the dealership's insurer under its indemnity of the vehicle owner would be no greater than the liability of the vehicle owner himself, and it is hard to imagine the vehicle owner being liable to the decedent (or his estate) under ANY legal theory. He entrusted his vehicle to the dealership. Where is there any negligence in THAT? Moreover, how did the vehicle owner have ANY legal duty to the decedent? At most, the insurer will be paying the costs to defend the ridiculous claim being advanced by the decedent's executor.
 

Obliviax

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If the facts presented in the article that the OP linked are accurate, I strongly suspect that there won't be any money damages for the dealership's insurer to pay. The liability of the dealership's insurer under its indemnity of the vehicle owner would be no greater than the liability of the vehicle owner himself, and it is hard to imagine the vehicle owner being liable to the decedent (or his estate) under ANY legal theory. He entrusted his vehicle to the dealership. Where is there any negligence in THAT? Moreover, how did the vehicle owner have ANY legal duty to the decedent? At most, the insurer will be paying the costs to defend the ridiculous claim being advanced by the decedent's executor.
I disagree completely. The dealership failed to establish and enforce a safe working space and is liable. If their insurer covers it or not, the dealership will be sued and found liable for some payment to the deceased. The dealership failed and will have to pay up.
 

LionDeNittany

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This is a better, more informative article. The vehicle owner will be defended and indemnified by the dealership's insurance, which will ultimately have to foot the monetary damages.


Yeah this was my guess. It's about the insurance company and who would be covered.

LdN
 
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LafayetteBear

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I disagree completely. The dealership failed to establish and enforce a safe working space and is liable. If their insurer covers it or not, the dealership will be sued and found liable for some payment to the deceased. The dealership failed and will have to pay up.
Obli: You have to distinguish between the direct liability of the dealership to the decedent (or, more precisely, his probate estate), and the derivative liability of the dealership as a result of its indemnity of the vehicle owner who was a customer of the dealership. Those are two different things.

As for the direct liability of the dealership to the decedent, that is workers compensation liability. pure and simple. They will not even inquire into issues of negligence or liability on the dealership's part, because liability is presumed if an employee is injured in the course and scope of his employment. The only issue is damages, and the workers compensation laws in every state limit those damages. Punitive damages are typically unavailable, and there may well be a pretty low cap on "pain and suffering" damages.

Pain and suffering damages and punitive damages are theoretically available in the decedent's (or, more properly, his probate estate's) lawsuit against a third party (by which I mean someone other than the decedent's employer). But in this case, the indemnifying dealership's liability is derivative, and predicated solely on the liability of the vehicle owner whom it is indemnifying. And, as I mentioned in a prior post, it is difficult to conceive of the vehicle owner being held liable to the decedent under any legal theory. Unless the vehicle owner is found to be liable, there is nothing to indemnify other than defense costs.
 
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dailybuck777

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See no way jeep owner has any liability. "The Michigan law states that 'if someone other than either the worker, the employer, or a coworker is responsible for an injury, that "third party" - in this case the Jeep owner - can be sued." Jeep owner not involved in any negligent conduct, so shouldn't be a responsible party. Family of victim appears to be trying to get around the limitation of damages provided to widows and children. In Ohio, widows get a reasonably good payment for life or until remarried. (something like 2/3 of average wage -- though not adjusted for inflation) Article implies that it is some sort of legal technique to get civil case going, but even if that was the case, it seems to be 100% premised on a totally false and unwinnable claim.
 

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