Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Avis Rent A Car System, LLC v. Smith.Csyg, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Georgia, Fifth Division

October 31, 2019

AVIS RENT A CAR SYSTEM, LLC et al.
v.
SMITH. CSYG, INC. et al.
v.
SMITH.

          MCFADDEN, C. J., MCMILLIAN, P. J., and MERCIER, J.

          McFadden, Chief Judge.

         Adrienne Danielle Smith was seriously injured when she was struck by a sport utility vehicle that had been stolen from an Avis car rental lot in downtown Atlanta. She sued Avis Rent A Car System, LLC, Avis Budget Group, Inc., and Peter Duca, a regional security manager for Avis (together, "Avis"), as well as CSYG, Inc., the operator of the downtown Avis location, and Yonas Gebremichael, CSYG's owner. Smith also sued Byron Perry, the former CSYG employee who stole the vehicle.

         After a 10-day trial, the jury returned a $47 million verdict in favor of Smith apportioned among the defendants. Avis filed a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict or, in the alternative, for new trial, Perry filed a motion for new trial (which he later dismissed), and CSYG and Gebremichael filed a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict or, in the alternative, for new trial. The trial court denied the motions. Avis, CSYG, and Gebremichael appeal.

         Today's opinion in the companion case, Avis Rent-a-Car System v. Johnson, __ Ga.App. __ (__ S.E.2d __) (Case No. A19A0928, decided October 31, 2019), holds that Perry's intervening criminal acts were the proximate cause of the injuries inflicted here. Accordingly we now hold that Perry's intervening criminal acts were the proximate cause of Smith's injuries, so the defendants are entitled to judgment on her claims arising from the defendants' alleged failure to secure the vehicle and the premises; that the trial court erred by entering judgment against Avis Rent A Car System and Avis Budget Group for the percentages of fault the jury apportioned to CSYG, Gebremichael, and Duca; that the trial court erred by denying CSYG and Gebremichael's motion for directed verdict on any claim that they are vicariously liable for Perry's negligence; that Perry was not acting under color of employment when he committed his criminal acts, so CSYG and Gebremichael are entitled to judgment on Smith's negligent hiring and retention claims; and that Gebremichael cannot be held personally liable. So we reverse in both cases.

         1. Facts and procedural posture.

          Viewed in the light most favorable to Smith, Jones v. Sperau, 275 Ga. 213 (1) (563 S.E.2d 863) (2002), the trial evidence showed that CSYG operated an Avis car rental lot on Courtland Street in downtown Atlanta. CSYG hired Byron Perry to wash and refuel cars at the location. On the night of August 23, 2013, after the Avis lot had closed at 7 p.m. and Perry and the other employees had left the premises, Perry apparently returned and stole a Ford Edge sport utility vehicle from the lot. Perry intended to sell the vehicle.

         Shortly before midnight, five hours after the lot had closed, the driver of the stolen Ford Edge was fleeing from police when the vehicle crashed into a brick wall. Smith and her friend, Brianna Johnson, were sitting on the wall at the time of the collision and were seriously injured. The location of the collision was 20 minutes away from the Avis lot. Perry, who was in the vehicle, fled from the scene and later pled guilty to multiple crimes arising from the incident, including serious injury by vehicle, reckless driving, hit and run, fleeing or attempting to elude police, and theft by taking.

         Smith filed this lawsuit to recover for her injuries, and the jury returned a $47 million verdict in her favor against all defendants. The jury returned a special verdict, finding that Avis Rent a Car System, LLC and Avis Budget Group, Inc. were 50 percent at fault; CSYG, Inc. was 15 percent at fault; Gebremichael and Duca were each 1 percent at fault; and Perry was 33 percent at fault. (The jury also found that "N. O.," an unidentified person whom Perry claimed was involved in the theft of the vehicle, was zero percent at fault.) The jury found that CSYG was an employee of Avis Rent A Car System, LLC and Avis Budget Group, Inc. Finally, it found that only Perry was liable to Smith for punitive damages.

         These appeals follow the trial court's denial of Avis's and CSYG and Gebremichael's motions for judgment notwithstanding the verdict or, in the alternative, for new trial.

         2. Failing to secure the vehicle and premises and negligent hiring and retention.

         As we held in Avis Rent A Car System v. Johnson, __ Ga.App. __, __ (2) (b) (__ S.E.2d __) (Case No. A19A0928, decided October 31, 2019), any breach of duty to secure the premises and the stolen vehicle was not the proximate cause of Smith's injuries, given Perry's intervening criminal conduct. So the defendants were entitled to judgment as a matter of law on Smith's claims arising from the defendants' alleged failure to secure the vehicle and premises, see id., and we will next address those issues arising from CSYG and Gebremichael's employment of Perry, including the imposition of vicarious liability on Avis for the fault apportioned to them.

         3. Judgment's imposition of vicarious liability for fault apportioned to CSYG and Gebremichael.

         Avis argues that the trial court erred by entering judgment against Avis for the percentages of fault apportioned ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.