A Jeep owner who dropped his vehicle off at the dealership for an oil change is being sued for $15 million over the death of a mechanic

May 12th

A customer took his Jeep into the Rochester Hills Chrysler Jeep Dodge dealership in Michigan for an oil change, handed the mechanics the keys, and went on his way. Now he is being sued for $15 million over the death of one of the dealership's mechanics.

Getting an oil change seems like such an innocuous, everyday occurrence. What could go wrong?

Apparently a lot.

You see, the Jeep in question had a manual transmission, and the mechanic changing the oil was 19-years old and had no idea how to drive a stick. When he started the car, he removed his foot from the clutch, and the gears engaged. The Jeep jumped forward, striking and killing a married 42-year old coworker.

The 19-year old also did not have a driver's license and should never have been behind the wheel of a car, even if were an automatic.

At this point, you might be thinking how is any of this the customer's fault. Surely the dealership who hired this kid and the mechanic himself are the responsible parties. Why not sue them?

According to the victim's lawyer,

We can't (sue the dealership) because of a legal standard that is involved.

Fox 2 Detroit explains,

In Michigan, an injured coworker cannot sue the boss because of the boss' negligence. According to FOX 2's Charlie Langton, in this case, the boss is negligent because they hired someone who didn't know how to drive a stick and didn't even have a driver's license.

So even though the boss was negligent is hiring someone who shouldn't have been driving, the victim's family cannot hold the boss responsible.

Michigan's laws say that instead of suing the boss, the family is entitled to worker's compensation. Under worker's compensation, the family will receive wages and medical based on the victim's dependents and how much he made at the time of his death.

So why sue the owner of the vehicle? Why not the driver?

There is also a Michigan statute known as the owner's liability statute that says the owner of a car can be held legally responsible for an accident if the owner gave permission for use of the car to the driver.

When the Jeep driver gave his keys over to the employee who was driving, he gave permission to the employee to drive the car. This makes the owner legally responsible and is automatically liable for the driver's negligence.

If you're anything like me, you're pulling out your hair at the injustice after reading this far and thinking along the lines of Dick the Butcher in Shakespeare's Henry VI: "First we kill all the lawyers."

But there is some justice happening in the case as a judge has already ruled that the dealership must provide indemnity for the Jeep owner, meaning the dealership would be financially liable for the outcome of the lawsuit (but of course the dealership has appealed the ruling).

If the indemnity ruling is overturned in appeal, the poor Jeep owner could be on the hook for all the damages of the trial.

And the moral of the story is, you might want to start changing your own oil and be very careful about who gets your keys. Michigan is not the only place with weird laws like this on the books.

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