SOUTHFIELD, Mich. (FOX 2) – A jeep dealer in Rochester Hills has agreed to a settlement with the family of a mechanic who was killed at work in March 2020 after the victim’s family sued the car’s owner.
Attorney David Femminineo told FOX 2 that the dealer, Rochester Hills Chrysler Jeep Dodge, and the family of Jeffrey Hawkins agreed to a secret deal after he was killed on March 13, 2020, when the owner of a jeep took in his car to get an oil . change.
What happened was that the dealer indemnified – took responsibility for – the Jeep owner’s legal responsibility. For further explanation of indemnity, scroll down while we explain the legal definition.
Under Michigan law, if someone is injured or killed and a vehicle is involved, the owner of the car is responsible.
MORE: Car owners who left Jeep at dealerships are sued after the worker dies during an oil change
So the Jeep owner, who was waiting in the lobby at the time of Hawkins’ death, was in charge of the civil case. There were no criminal charges against Hawkins’ death. Femminineo had sued the Jeep owner for $ 15 million.
“We can not (sue the dealer) because of a legal standard involved,” he said.
Femminineo said the owner of the jeep “did not pay a penny” but that the dealer and the family reached an unknown settlement.
Why was the owner held responsible?
In Michigan, a worker who is injured or killed at work cannot sue the boss because of the boss’ negligence. According to FOX 2’s Charlie Langton, the boss in this case is negligent because they hired someone who did not know how to drive a stick and did not even have a driver’s license.
So even if the boss was negligent when he hired someone who should not have driven, the victim’s family can not hold the boss responsible.
Instead, the cure for the victim’s family is to seek workers’ compensation, which they have and received $ 100,000.
READ MORE: Why a Jeep owner is sued after the dealer’s employee was killed during an oil change
Under work compensation, Hawkin’s family will receive salary and medical care based on his relatives and how much he earned at the time of his death.
However, there are several wrinkles here. Because Hawkins’ death involved a car, there is a charter known as the owner’s liability statute which means that the owner of the car is legally responsible.
If the owner has given permission to the driver to drive the car, the owner is negligent. When the jeep driver handed over his keys to the employee who was driving, he gave permission to the employee to drive the car. This makes the owner legally responsible and is automatically responsible for the driver’s negligence.
What is indemnity?
The owner of the Jeep Wrangler had options when the lawsuit was filed and it was to seek redress.
Compensation means that, if the judge rules against the car owner, the dealer would pay the remainder. In other words, it protects the car owner and instead places the responsibility on the dealer.
In the separate trial, the dealer was ordered to pay compensation to the Jeep owner.
Why was the teenager not prosecuted?
The then 19-year-old did not have a driver’s license and did not know how to drive a manual gearbox.
Langton said the 19-year-old could not be held criminally liable for a mistake.
“In general, a criminal act requires some criminal intent. This is an accident – quite simply,” Langton said.
The 19-year-old is not identified because he is not suspected of any crime.
According to the law, the owner is deputy responsible for the teenager’s negligent acts because he drove his vehicle with a permit.
If the vehicle had been stolen, the Deputy Act is no longer in force and the person driving your vehicle without
Documents filed in Oakland County Circuit Court reveal more details about what happened that day.
On March 13, 2020, Hawkins left his home, which he shared with his wife and children. It was a little over an hour later that his wife learned that he had been in an accident and was hospitalized. He died just before nine in the morning.
According to court documents, the Jeep owner took his Wrangler 4-door with him for oil change and tire rotation. The service was performed by a 19-year-old who had worked at the dealership for two months and performed the maintenance. The teenager finished the job and lowered the vehicle and put all four wheels on the ground.
At this stage, he then tried to start the jeep to check if there were oil leaks around the filter. However, the Jeep had a manual transmission. The teenager did not sit inside the jeep but reached into the vehicle with his right foot and one hand. He pressed the brake with his right foot and his left foot was on the floor.
MORE: Why teenager who disconnected the clutch was not prosecuted or sued after Jeep crushed mechanics
When he pressed the start button, nothing happened. Then he took his foot off the brake and pressed the clutch and pressed the start button. This time the jeep started.
The teenager was still outside the jeep and when he moved his right foot from the clutch, the jeep threw forward.
At the exact moment, Hawkins was standing in front of the jeep and had bent down to retrieve something from a metal cabinet. A colleague said he was actually on his knees with his back to the jeep where the teenager started the vehicle. When it slammed forward, it smashed Hawkins in the closet.
The teenager did not have a driver’s license and had never driven a manual gearbox, according to his own admission in a court deposit. He admitted that he had never had a driver’s license, driven a vehicle with a manual transmission and clutch pedal, attended a driver training course or attended a class to teach him to drive a manual transmission.
The court documents state that the 19-year-old assumed that Hawkins had parked the jeep in gear when he placed it over the elevator. However, it is not known who parked the jeep inside Hawkins bay that morning. The store manager said that mechanics or carriers will move vehicles but there was no information on who did it.
The second part is that it is common and recommended by experts to park a car with a manual gearbox in either the first gear or the hill to prevent it from rolling away, but the operator should check the gearbox only when the vehicle is started.
Langton said the teenager made a mistake but that does not always mean there is a crime. He said it was unlikely that an arrest warrant would even be presented to the prosecution.
“Just because it’s a bad or tragic outcome does not mean there is a crime. Mistakes are made,” Langton said. “Even if you are negligent, it does not mean that it is a criminal act. If for any reason it was, a jury must believe beyond a reasonable doubt that the 19-year-old intended to kill him.”
The teenager was not affected by drugs or alcohol, which would have affected the accusations and the civil lawsuit.