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What Duty Does a Rental Car Agency Have in Checking the License of its Renters?

Vehicle Code Section 14608 requires the following of those renting cars:

A person shall not rent a motor vehicle to another person unless both of the following requirements have been met:

(1) The person to whom the vehicle is rented is licensed under this code or is a nonresident who is licensed under the laws of the state or country of his or her residence.

(2) The person renting to another person has inspected the driver’s license of the person to whom the vehicle is to be rented and compared either the signature thereon with that of the person to whom the vehicle is to be rented or the photograph thereon with the person to whom the vehicle is to be rented.

Veh. Code, § 14608

The extent to which a rental car company must look into the identification provided was tested recently in Enterprise Rent-A-Car of Los Angeles v. Superior Court (2022) Cal. App. LEXIS 841.

The facts of the case are as follows:

In 2015, Donara Grigoryan was injured in a car accident involving a rental car driven by Izat Murataliev.  Harutyan Ajaryan rented the car involved in the accident from Enterprise Rent-A-Car Company of Los Angeles (ERAC-LA). Murataliev was listed as an additional authorized driver in the rental agreement between Ajaryan and ERAC-LA. At the time of rental, Murataliev presented ERAC-LA with a facially valid driver’s license issued by Kyrgyzstan, and a local California address on the rental paperwork.

Grigoryan sued ERAC-LA, Murataliev, and EAN Holding, LLC (EAN), for negligence.  Specifically, Grigoryan alleged ERAC-LA negligently entrusted Murataliev with the rental vehicle, and therefore proximately caused her injuries.

ERAC-LA moved for summary judgment on Grigoryan’s claim against it for negligent entrustment, arguing the claim failed as a matter of law because ERAC-LA complied with section 14608. Grigoryan opposed the motion, arguing Murataliev was a resident of California, and the visual inspection of a foreign license does not satisfy the requirements of section 14608.

Rather, she contended ERAC-LA was required to determine whether Murataliev was still a resident of Kyrgyzstan to comply with section 14608. Grigoryan further argued material factual disputes exist regarding ERAC-LA’s inspection of Murataliev’s foreign driver’s license.

(Enterprise Rent-A-Car of Los Angeles v. Superior Court (Oct. 6, 2022, No. B321016) ___Cal.App.5th___ [2022 Cal. App. LEXIS 841, at *2-3].)

Ultimately, this case made its way before the Court of Appeal, which found:

Our conclusion that a rental car agency is entitled to rely on a foreign driver’s license as sufficient evidence of residence in the country from which the driver’s license was issued finds further support in other provisions of the Vehicle Code. (See Curle v. Superior Court (2001) 24 Cal.4th 1057, 1063)  Specifically, section 12805, subdivision (a)(6) prohibits the DMV from issuing a driver’s license to a person “[w]ho holds a valid driver’s license issued by a foreign jurisdiction unless the license has been surrendered to the [DMV], or is lost or destroyed.” That Murataliev  still had a facially valid foreign license in his possession after also having apparently been issued a California driver’s license may indicate a failure on the part of the DMV, or dishonest conduct on the part of Murataliev. As discussed above, however, section 14604 requires only that a rental car agency “‘make a reasonable effort’ to determine whether the prospective driver possesses a valid driver’s license”; “that reasonable effort does not include checking DMV records.”
Enterprise Rent-A-Car of Los Angeles v. Superior Court (Oct. 6, 2022, No. B321016) ___Cal.App.5th___ [2022 Cal. App. LEXIS 841, at *16-17].

The Court ultimately held:

  1. In a case in which real party in interest was injured in a car accident involving a rental car that was driven by a driver who had a foreign driver’s license, the appellate court concluded a rental car agency complies with Veh. Code, § 14608, by visually examining a foreign driver’s license and verifying either the signature on the license or the photograph. The agency is entitled to rely on the prospective renter’s presentation of a foreign driver’s license as sufficient evidence of residence in the country from which the driver’s license was issued;
  2. The rental agency met its prima facie burden of establishing its compliance with § 14608, subd. (a)(2), by adequately inspecting the foreign driver’s license. Real party failed to carry her burden to demonstrate a triable issue of material fact existed regarding the agency’s compliance with § 14608, subd. (a)(2).

Enterprise Rent-A-Car of Los Angeles v. Superior Court (Oct. 6, 2022, No. B321016) ___Cal.App.5th___ [2022 Cal. App. LEXIS 841, at *1].

Mr. Serrano has been admitted to practice before California State and Federal Courts. He was named to the Super Lawyers’ 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016 Southern California Rising Stars List, an honor awarded to no more than 2.5% of attorneys in Southern California each year. View Attorney Jean-Simon Serrano's Attorney Bio Here.

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