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Amparan v. Demir

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

February 13, 2017



         THIS MATTER comes before the Court on two of Defendant Avis Rent A Car System LLC's motions: Motion for Summary Judgment on Plaintiffs' Claim for Negligent Entrustment filed November 4, 2016 (Doc. 106) and Motion for Summary Judgment on Plaintiffs' Claim for Negligent Supervision and Training filed November 4, 2016 (Doc. 107). Having reviewed the relevant pleadings and the applicable law, and the oral arguments of counsel presented at the hearing on February 8, 2017, the Court finds the Motions for Summary Judgment are well-taken, and are therefore GRANTED.


         I. Undisputed Facts

         This litigation arises from a car accident that occurred on July 14, 2014, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. As a result of the accident, Plaintiffs Edmundo Amparan and Kimberly L.

         Amparan allege personal injury due to negligence; negligence per se; negligent entrustment; negligent supervision and training; mandatory statutory liability; and loss of consortium.

         Defendant Lake Powell Car Rental Companies (“Lake Powell”) is a licensee of Defendant Avis Rent A Car System, LLC (“Avis”). Lake Powell is a sole member limited liability company organized under the laws of Arizona and located in Page, Arizona. Paul David Williams is the sole member and owner of Lake Powell. Lake Powell operates under an Exclusive License Agreement with Avis, which entitles Lake Powell to use Avis' trade name, trademark, and business operating system, and obligates Lake Powell to operate its business in compliance with the Avis Systems Operation Manual. The Agreement provides that Avis may terminate the relationship with Lake Powell if Lake Powell fails to adhere to the Agreement.

         Lake Powell does not have any employees other than the owner, Mr. Williams. Mr. Williams was the only person working at Lake Powell on July 14, 2014. Mr. Williams never received any training at his store from anyone at Avis regarding qualifying customers to rent vehicles. Mr. Williams has been in the car rental industry for about 26 years. He uses a software system called Wizard to operate his car rental store. The Wizard system provides a manager such as Mr. Williams to approve a driver under age 25. Wizard requires entry of a valid credit card but does not validate a driver's license or customer's date of birth.

         On July 14, 2014, Lake Powell and Defendant Denizcan Karadeniz entered into a car rental transaction. Mr. Karadeniz rented two vehicles, a Dodge Caravan and a Ford Mustang. Mert Tacir, who accompanied Mr. Karadeniz, completed an “additional driver” application and Lake Powell allowed Mr. Tacir to operate the Ford Mustang. Mr. Tacir was the only authorized additional driver. Mr. Karadeniz and Mr. Tacir both presented facially-valid Turkish drivers' licenses to Mr. Williams when renting the vehicles. Both drivers were under age 25. Mr.

         Karadeniz also presented a valid credit card. Mr. Karadeniz told Mr. Williams he was renting the cars so that he and his group could go sightseeing. Mr. Karadeniz stated he planned to return the cars the following day to Lake Powell.

         Following the rental transaction, Mr. Karadeniz and Mr. Tacir, together with Mevlut Berkay Demir and some other individuals, travelled to New Mexico in the two rental cars. At some point during their trip, Mr. Demir was permitted to drive the Ford Mustang and he collided with Mr. Amparan's motorcycle at the intersection of Comanche and Wyoming in Albuquerque. Mr. Demir allegedly failed to yield to the green light when making a left turn in front of Mr. Amparan. Mr. Amparan's motorcycle did not collide with the Dodge Caravan driven by Mr. Karadeniz. After the accident, Mr. Demir testified that he did not know that a driver turning left against a green light must yield to oncoming traffic. Mr. Demir was 21 years old. A driver's license number was recorded in the police report from the accident, which indicated it was a Turkish driver's license.

         The License Agreement requires that renters be at least 25 years of age, though there are exceptions to this rule and a manager can override the 25-year age requirement. Avis' representative Ryan Honig testified that Avis licensees such as Lake Powell retain ultimate discretion whether to rent a vehicle to a customer, including a customer under age 25, although Avis can provide guidance on the driver qualification procedures. Mr. Honig explained Avis does not provide guidance to licensees on renting to drivers under age 25 because the decision involves a case-by-case evaluation of the circumstances, and ultimately the licensee must feel comfortable with the circumstances. Plaintiffs state that Avis' rules do not allow a renter under the age of 25 and that no exceptions applied to this case, so Lake Powell violated Avis' policies.[1]Mr. Williams has rented to drivers under age 25 in the past when the renter is a local individual who he is familiar with, is someone renting the car for a business purpose, has insurance on their own vehicle, and a valid credit card. In this case, he believed Mr. Karadeniz and his group were employees of a local company, were 21, and presented a valid credit card and drivers' licenses, which is why he chose to allow them to rent the cars.

         Finally, Plaintiffs incorporate by reference in the Response the report of James S. Tennant, an expert in the vehicle rental industry. Mr. Tennant opines that the “failure to properly qualify potential renters will result in danger to the public by having irresponsible and potentially dangerous persons driving rental cars.” Doc. 117-5 at 2. Mr. Tennant further explains that “many rental businesses in the industry will only rent to persons over 25 years of age” because “drivers over 25 are safer.” Id. Drivers under 25 are more frequently involved in accidents. Thus, Lake Powell acted in a manner that failed to meet vehicle rental industry standards, which resulted in an increased risk to the public. Id. at 2-3. Lake Powell and Avis were negligent in failing to have “clear procedures and policies” on qualifying renters. See Id. at 3. Mr. Tennant opines that Avis was negligent in allowing Mr. Williams to have discretion in renting vehicles when Avis “knew, or should have known, that in spite of many years in the car rental industry, has a very poor understanding of such basic industry principals as rental qualification policies, [and] underage rental policies.” Id. at 5. He states Avis “should not have allowed Mr. Williams to rent these vehicles to Mr. Karadeniz” because the accident would not have occurred otherwise. Id.

         Count III of Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint alleges Avis negligently entrusted the vehicles to Mr. Karadeniz, Mr. Tacir, and Mr. Demir. Count V states Avis negligently trained and supervised employees, which caused the subject accident. Avis filed two motions on these claims on November 4, 2016: Motion for Summary Judgment on Plaintiffs' Claim for Negligent Entrustment (Doc. 106) and Motion for Summary Judgment on Plaintiffs' Claim for Negligent Supervision and Training (Doc. 107). Plaintiffs filed Responses on December 13, 2016 (Docs. 118 and 119). Lake Powell Replies on January 26, 2017 (Docs. 136 and 137).

         II. Evidentiary Issues

         The Court incorporates by reference its discussion of the deficiencies in Plaintiffs' briefing set forth in the Court's Memorandum Opinion and Order Granting Lake Powell's Motion for Summary Judgment. See Doc. 150 at 5-8.


         Summary judgment is appropriate “if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits . . . show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). Initially, the moving party bears the burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. See Shapolia v. Los Alamos Nat'l Lab., 922 F.3d 1033, 1036 (10th Cir. 1993) (citations omitted). Once the moving party meets its initial burden, the nonmoving party must show that genuine issues remain for trial “as to those dispositive matters for which it carries the burden of proof.” Applied Genetics Int'l Inc. v. First Affiliated Secs., Inc., 912 F.2d 1238, 1241 (10th Cir. 1991) (citation omitted).

         A fact is material if it could have an effect on the outcome of the suit. Smothers v. Solvay Chems., Inc., 740 F.3d 530, 538 (10th Cir. 2014). A dispute over a material fact is genuine if the evidence presented could allow a rational jury to find in favor of the nonmoving party. EEOC v. Horizon/CMS Heathcare Corp., 220 F.3d 1184, 1190 (10th Cir. 2000). A court is to view the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of that party. Shero v. City of Grove, 510 F.3d 1196, 1200 (10th Cir. 2007). A court cannot weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter, but instead determines whether there is a genuine issue for trial. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 243 (1986).

         “[A] complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial, ” and thus, the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).


         I. Negligent Entrustment

         Avis makes three principal arguments regarding Plaintiffs' claim for negligent entrustment. First, the Graves Amendment precludes joint and several liability. Second, Avis did not entrust a vehicle to Mr. Demir because the transaction occurred at Lake Powell, an Avis licensee location. Third, Plaintiffs have no evidence Mr. Demir was incompetent to drive, nor have they shown Avis knew or should have known Mr. Demir was incompetent to drive. The Court agrees, and finds Avis is entitled to summary judgment on Plaintiffs' claim for negligent entrustment.

         Avis first points out that the Graves Amendment, 49 U.S.C. § 30106(a), expressly preempts vicarious liability claims against commercial vehicle lessors. Guinn v. Great W. Cas. Co., No. CIV-09-1198-D, 2010 WL 4811042, at *6 (W.D. Okla. Nov. 19, 2010). Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint asserts joint and several liability against Avis, so the ...

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