L&E’s Brett Emison Offers Insight on New Rental Car Law in Recent Article

Langdon & Emison partner Brett Emison offered commentary in a recent article about a new law requiring rental cars with open recalls to be repaired before renting or selling them to customers. The article was published in the July 7, 2016, online issue of Trial magazine, a publication of the American Association for Justice (AAJ).

According to the article, the law—which went into effect June 1—applies to companies with more than 35 rental vehicles and is a part of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act of 2015. The legislation was enacted last December.

The law, known as the Raechel and Jacqueline Houck Safe Rental Car Act, was named for two sisters who were killed after their rental car, a Chrysler PT Cruiser, caught fire and crashed into an oncoming tractor-trailer. The vehicle was under a safety recall for a fire hazard when it was rented to the young women.

Emison called the new law “extremely significant.” “It ends the dangerous practice of ‘rental car roulette,’” Emison told AAJ. “Most car renters never knew it, but until very recently, every single car rental company had policies that allowed the company to rent defective vehicles to unknowing customers—even if the vehicle was subject to a safety recall.’”

Under the new law, if an auto manufacturer has notified a rental car company that a vehicle in the company’s fleet is covered by a recall, the company cannot rent the car until the issue is fixed. In addition, rental car companies are now required to stop renting recalled vehicles immediately or within 24 hours after receiving notice from the manufacturer. That timeline is extended for companies with more than 5,000 vehicles in their rental fleet, according to the article.

Emison said while an improvement, the law is not without shortcomings. “In today’s technological age, where each vehicle is tracked electronically, there is simply no reason rental car companies should be permitted to leave defective and dangerous vehicles on the roadway for any length of time—much less up to two whole days.”

One concern is that a company can “rent a vehicle if the part or method for correcting the problem is not immediately available and the company takes temporary measures as instructed by the manufacturer to eliminate the safety risk,” according to the article.

Once the permanent fix is available, companies are precluded from renting the vehicle until problem is remedied and they have fully complied with the recall.

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Langdon & Emison is recognized as one of the nation’s top personal injury law firm, having taken on some of the world’s largest corporations in cases involving defective vehicles and other instances of negligence. With offices in Lexington and Kansas City, Mo., St. Louis and Chicago, the firm’s personal injury lawyers represent plaintiffs from coast to coast. Langdon & Emison represented the plaintiff in Baker vs. General Motors, a landmark lawsuit where for the first time evidence was admitted into court proving an automaker’s deliberate choice of profits over human safety. For three decades, the firm has earned a national reputation as a leader in auto defect cases, trucking accidents and a full array of personal injury litigation.