The Second Department, reversing Supreme Court, determined plaintiff did not demonstrate the Graves Amendment did not apply to the owner of the vehicle involved in the accident, relieving the owner of a leased vehicle of liability:
Pursuant to Vehicle and Traffic Law § 388(1), “[e]very owner of a vehicle used or operated in this state shall be liable and responsible for death or injuries to person or property resulting from negligence in the use or operation of such vehicle, in the business of such owner or otherwise, by any person using or operating the same with the permission, express or implied, of such owner.” However, pursuant to the Graves Amendment, which “preempt[s] conflicting New York law” … , the owner of a leased or rented motor vehicle (or an affiliate of the owner) cannot be held liable by reason of being the owner of the vehicle (or an affiliate of the owner) for personal injuries resulting from the use of such vehicle if: (1) the owner (or an affiliate of the owner) is engaged in the trade or business of renting or leasing motor vehicles, and (2) there is no negligence or criminal wrongdoing on the part of the owner (or an affiliate of the owner) (see 49 USC § 30106[a] …). Keys v PV Holding Corp., 2022 NY Slip Op 03105, Second Dept 5-11-22
Practice Point: If the owner of a leased vehicle is not negligent (i.e., improper maintenance, etc.), the Graves Amendment relieves the owner of liability for a traffic accident involving the leased vehicle. Here the plaintiff did not demonstrate the Graves Amendment didn’t apply. Therefore the burden to prove the amendment did apply never shifted to the defendant vehicle-owner and plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment should not have been granted.