TN Court: Owner liable for car thief's crash if keys were in vehicle

TN Court: Owner liable for car thief's crash if keys were in vehicle

December 11th, 2010 by Associated Press in News

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - A Tennessee appeals court has ruled that a person can be held responsible for a car thief's crash if the keys were left in the vehicle.

The Tennessee Court of Appeals ruled this week in a case involving a stolen car, a police chase and a wreck in Murfreesboro in May 2007.

The Court of Appeals upheld a lower court's decision to dismiss a lawsuit against the city of Murfreesboro and its police department over a wreck that involved a fleeing stolen vehicle that crashed with a car carrying three people.

But the higher court reversed a decision by the circuit court of Rutherford County and said the suit against a man who left the keys in the car before it was stolen should continue.

The amount of damages sought by those hurt in the crash was not listed. The extent of their injuries also was not included in the appeals court ruling.

Plaintiffs were Sandra Newman and her family, who were in the car hit by an unknown motorist who had stolen the vehicle. They claimed negligence against Rubye Jarrell, who had the car registered; her grandson Joseph D. Ash Jr., who had left keys in the car, and the unknown driver of the other car, listed as John Doe in the suit.

The suit alleged negligence on the part of the Murfreesboro Police Department for pursuing the stolen car prior to the accident May 18, 2007.

The appeals court said it did not matter whether the keys were left in the ignition or the front seat or on the dash board in plain view.

Further, the judges said the car was stolen in what appeared to be a high crime area.