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Michigan car owner sued after Jeep killed mechanic during oil change




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A Michigan man who left his car at a dealer for oil change and tire rotation is being sued after his vehicle was involved in the death of one of the dealer’s employees.

Sergio Enrique Diaz-Navarro took his red 2019 Wrangler to a Chrysler Jeep Dodge dealer on March 13, 2020, and 19-year-old lubrication technician Daniel Thompson worked on the car. After the service was completed, the vehicle “slung forward” as the young employee tried to operate it, smashing 42-year-old mechanic Jeffrey Hawkins against a locker, court records show.

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Michigan car owner sued after Jeep killed mechanic during oil change

Thompson had lowered the jeep from the vehicle lift, and then tried to start the car and let it idle to ensure that there were no oil leaks around the filter, according to the court record.

“Thompson reached into the vehicle and applied the brake with his right foot, while keeping his other foot on the floor,” the plaintiff’s summary states. “He pressed the start button. When the vehicle did not start, he took his foot off the brake and depressed the clutch pedal. He pressed the start button again. This time the jeep started. He removed his foot from the clutch, still standing outside the vehicle. The vehicle slammed forward.”

Hawkins was taken to the hospital, where he gave in to injuries, according to The Kansas City Star.

Diaz-Navarro and Thompson were both sued in a Michigan district court in March 2021.

New jeep vehicles parked outside a Chrystler, Jeep, Dodge and RAM dealer in South Edmonton.  Wednesday, August 24, 2021 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.  (Photo by Artur Widak / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

New jeep vehicles parked outside a Chrystler, Jeep, Dodge and RAM dealer in South Edmonton. Wednesday, August 24, 2021 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Artur Widak / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

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Attorney David Femminineo, who represents Hawkins’ property, told FOX 2 that Thompson did not know how to drive the vehicle’s manual transmission and did not have a license. The lawyer also said that the dealer can not be sued because of a legal standard that prevents an employee from suing his boss for negligence, which in this case would be the employment of someone who should not have driven.

Because the incident happened at work and involved two employees, the boss cannot be sued, FOX 2 notes.

Diaz-Navarro’s lawyer told FOX 2 that he plans to fight the case in a lawsuit later this month.

“When you hand over your car to someone, including the officer or the person at the service desk of your local dealer, it is better that you can trust that person,” the lawyer said.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV 2020 Jeep Gladiator pickups will be unveiled at a car dealership in Tinley Park, Illinois, USA, on Monday, September 30, 2019. Car sales in the US probably took a big step back in September, setting the stage for hefty incentive spending from carmakers struggling to remove old models from dealers' inventory.  Photographer: Daniel Acker / Bloomberg via Getty Images

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV 2020 Jeep Gladiator pickups will be unveiled at a car dealership in Tinley Park, Illinois, USA, on Monday, September 30, 2019. Car sales in the US probably took a big step back in September, setting the stage for hefty incentive spending from carmakers struggling to remove old models from dealers’ inventory. Photographer: Daniel Acker / Bloomberg via Getty Images

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Femminineo told McClatchy News that the car owner is responsible for Hawkins’ death in the same way that someone who lent another person their car would be responsible for any damage caused by the driver. He said that a person who lends his car is responsible for negligent actions because they gave the other person permission to use their vehicle.

According to a summary filed in court on March 1, the court has ordered the Rochester Hills Chrysler Jeep Dodge dealer, where the incident occurred, to indemnify Diaz-Navarro if he is found responsible for negligence.

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“So in reality, the owner will be held accountable, but the dealer’s insurance company pays,” Femminineo told McClatchy News. He said he hopes a sentence of over $ 15 million will be awarded.



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