Jacksonville, Fla. (PRWEB) April 11, 2014
Attorneys Steve Pajcic and Tom Slater of Jacksonville won a significant victory for a car accident client when the Supreme Court of Florida said in an April 10 decision that the ex-husband of the woman who hit and killed the client’s husband could share liability for the crash, The Law Firm of Pajcic & Pajcic announced today.
According to the opinion, the case turned on whether the dangerous instrumentality doctrine applied to hold the car’s co-owner vicariously liable for the accident, even though he did not have access to the vehicle, never drove it and did not have a key to it.
Because the co-owner never took his name off the car’s title, he was exposed to liability for the fatal accident that happened when the car’s other owner struck and killed a man, the high court held.
The opinion in Christensen v. Bowen et al. (Case No. SC12-2078) came in response to a certified question from the Fifth District Court of Appeal.
“This ruling is important because it opens the door to another source of financial recovery for our client, Mary Jo Bowen, the widow of Thomas Bowen, who was killed in a terrible accident,” Pajcic said. “But the decision reaches far beyond this case. It sets a key precedent for all car accident claims that involve vehicles with co-owners.”
Florida’s dangerous instrumentality doctrine holds that the owner of a vehicle may be held responsible for an accident that happens when another driver causes a crash while using the vehicle with the owner’s knowledge and consent, according to the opinion.
“The dangerous instrumentality doctrine serves to ensure financial recourse to members of the public who are injured by the negligent operation of a motor vehicle by imposing strict vicarious liability on those with an identifiable property ownership interest in the vehicle,” the opinion states.
At issue in the Supreme Court case was whether the doctrine applied to a co-owner whose name remained on the car’s title but who never drove the car and did not have access to it. The justices ruled that the doctrine did apply, despite the co-owner’s stated intention that the car was meant to be a gift to his now ex-wife.
“Should a titleholder never intend to use a vehicle and wish to avoid vicarious liability, then the titleholder must divest himself or herself of any interest in the vehicle,” the opinion states. “If title ownership were subject to attack based on the subjective intent of a titleholder, then all types of cases that involve motor vehicles would become subject to litigation on ownership issues.”
Pajcic said avoiding these kinds of disputes is crucial for car accident victims who deserve full and timely compensation for their injuries from all responsible parties.
“I am proud to be a part of this landmark ruling that will help to ensure justice not only for my client, but for all victims of driver negligence in Florida,” he said.
About Pajcic & Pajcic
The Law Firm of Pajcic & Pajcic, founded in 1974, represents individuals and families who have suffered a personal injury or lost a loved one through the fault of others. Based in Jacksonville, the law firm has successfully handled thousands of personal injury lawsuits throughout the surrounding areas of Florida and South Georgia, including St. Marys, Brunswick Gainesville, Valdosta and Daytona. The firm’s office is located at 1 Independent Drive, Jacksonville, FL 32202. To learn more about The Law Firm of Pajcic & Pajcic, call 904-358-8881 or fill out the firm’s online contact form.