A Michigan man who left his car at a dealership for an oil change and tire rotation is being sued after his vehicle was involved in the death of one of the dealership’s employees.
Sergio Enrique Diaz-Navarro took his red 2019 Wrangler to a Chrysler Jeep Dodge dealership on March 13, 2020, and 19-year-old lube technician Daniel Thompson worked on the car. After the service was completed, the vehicle “tipped forward” as the young employee attempted to operate it, smashing 42-year-old mechanic Jeffrey Hawkins into a cabinet, according to court records.
Thompson lowered the Jeep from the lift, then tried to start the car and let it idle to make sure there were no oil leaks around the filter, according to court records.
“Thompson reached the vehicle and pressed the brake with his right foot, keeping his other foot on the ground,” the claimant’s summary reads. “He pressed the start button. When the vehicle failed to start, he took his foot off the brake and depressed the clutch pedal. He pressed the start button again. This time the Jeep drove off. He took his foot off the clutch, still standing outside the vehicle. The vehicle swerved forward.
Hawkins was taken to hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries, according to The Kansas City Star.
Both Diaz-Navarro and Thompson were sued in Michigan circuit court in March 2021.
Attorney David Femminineo, who represents Hawkins’ estate, told FOX 2 that Thompson did not know how to drive the vehicle’s manual transmission and did not have a license. The attorney also said the dealership couldn’t be sued because of a legal standard preventing an employee from suing their boss for negligence, which in this case would be hiring someone who doesn’t. shouldn’t have driven.
Because the incident happened at work and involved two employees, the boss cannot be prosecuted, FOX 2 notes.
Diaz-Navarro’s attorney told FOX 2 he plans to defend the case at trial later this month.
“When you hand over your car to anyone, including the valet or the help desk person at your local dealership, you better trust that person,” the attorney said.
Femminineo told McClatchy News that the owner of the car is liable for Hawkins’ death the same way someone who loaned their vehicle to another person would be liable for injuries caused by the driver. He said a person who lends his car is liable for negligent acts because he gave the other person permission to use his vehicle.
According to a summary filed in court on March 1, the court ordered the Rochester Hills Chrysler Jeep Dodge dealership, where the incident occurred, to compensate Diaz-Navarro if found guilty of negligence.
“So really the owner is going to be held responsible, but the dealership’s insurance company is paying,” Femminineo told McClatchy News. He said he hopes for a verdict of more than $15 million.