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NY Lawsuit Twist Upholds Vicarious Liability

May 18, 2005

The New York state Court of Appeals ruled earlier this month that a passenger severely injured in a 2001 accident in New York City caused by a Russian diplomat cannot sue the diplomat because of diplomatic immunity. However, the court ruled that the victim could sue Ford Motor Co., which had leased the car to the Russian Mission, according to a May 6 New York Post story and various news sources. The ruling falls under New York's vicarious liability laws, which allow accident victims to go after not only the drivers involved in accidents but also the cars' owners. New York is the only state to still have unlimited vicarious liability. The Ford lawsuit was initially dismissed by a state Supreme Court justice who found that Konovalov's immunity extended to the leasing company. Under federal law the victim has the option of suing the Russian mission's liability insurer in federal court. But a mid-level appeals court reinstated the suit, leading to the hearing. The lawyer for the victim said the decision means Ford will have to pay damages, according to the Post report. The Post report states that according to the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the number of leased cars rose by 12 percent outside the state last year but fell by 32 percent in it.
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