Modified: December 9, 2022

Recalls and Car Rental Liability – Who Can Biden Sue for Burned-out Cars?

On November 27, 2022, the vehicles rented by the secret service for President Joe Biden burst into flames during the thanksgiving weekend. Let’s explore the details of the incident with Ehline Law and our car crash personal injury attorneys.

Secret Service Detail Bursts into Flames in Parking Lot, Causing Significant Damage

The cars rented out by the secret service were parked at the Nantucket Memorial Airport when at around 5:22 AM, airport staff observed a fire on the footage displayed on a closed circuit TV system from one of the cameras.

According to the statement released by the Nantucket Memorial Airport, the police and local fire authorities immediately reached the parking lot to extinguish the fire and conduct an investigation. Many believe the fire started with the Ford Expedition, as Ford recalled the vehicle in May due to a faulty battery junction.

Ford recalled more than 65,000 Ford expeditions and Lincoln Navigators vehicles manufactured between December 2020 and April 2021. The faulty junction box was a severe issue in the gasoline cars produced by Ford and could spark a fire under the vehicle’s hood.

When recalling the vehicles, Ford released a statement pinning the blame on the circuit board supplier stating that the supplier moved manufacturing locations during Covid-19, resulting in printed circuit boards that are susceptible to high-current short.

However, that explanation did not stop the conspiracy theorist across the internet from coming up with their own story surrounding the incident. Some linked the rental vehicles on fire to terrorism, and not a coincidence.

Authorities are not quick to jump to such solutions as seemingly similar under-the-hood fires occurred last year when the vehicles remained parked and suddenly caught fire. Fire chief Michael Cranson hinted at the possibility of the Ford Expedition bursting into flames and spreading the fire to nearby vehicles, including Chevy Suburban and Jeep Gladiator, causing significant damage.

The authorities concluded the investigation as there was too much damage hindering evidence of the cause of the incident. They made it clear that there is nothing intentional going on and looks like a case of a vehicle going rogue.

Anthony Guglielmi, Secret Service communications chief, spoke to the media about the burn incident, stating that the United States president does not ride in rental vehicles and the cars rented from Hertz were for secret service agents only. He further noted that there were no issues with the cars or their performance when used by the agents before the drop-off.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report published in March 2022, there were eight underhood fire allegations, with six occurring in parked vehicles, while the other two happened during driving. Interestingly, all eight vehicles belonged to different rental car companies at various locations.

By May 2022, 16 government vehicles, including Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigators, caught fire, with rental car companies owning 14. Following such incidents, Ford advised people owning these vehicles to park them away from buildings and in the outdoors.

According to CEO AutoSlash (a car rental company), rental car companies are responsible for pulling recalled vehicles from their fleet until the manufacturers properly address the recall issue. 

Who Can Biden Sue for Burned-out Cars?

When individuals rent out vehicles, it is essential to note that the driver accepts responsibility for the vehicle, and they cannot sue the rental company for any damages arising from an accident. They can sue other parties at fault for the accident but not the rental company since they accepted responsibility.

However, in some cases, rental car companies can be liable for accidents, especially when they have knowledge of a defective part in a vehicle that can cause a collision or an accident. If a rental car knows of a particular defect that can lead to an accident and an accident occurs, it may be liable for damages.

In the case of Biden’s secret service vehicles bursting into flames, the vehicle in question is the Ford Expedition. For the Biden Administration to bring a valid lawsuit, there must be a duty of care, breach, causation, and damages.

Hertz owes the secret service a duty of care to ensure that the vehicles rented out are safe and there are no defects. Ford recalled 66,000 SUVs, including the Ford Expedition, for fire issues, and if that included the vehicles rented out to the secret service, Hertz is breaching that duty of care.

The rental company must ground all recalled vehicles and pull them out of their fleet until a proper fix is in place. If Hertz is renting out recalled vehicles, it breaches its duty toward the secret service.

However, the Biden Administration must prove that the breach resulted in injuries. In the incident mentioned above, nobody suffered injuries, which means the Biden Administration does not have sufficient grounds to pursue a lawsuit against Hertz. 

However, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration may investigate the incident and punish violators for renting out unrepaired recalled vehicles.

Can Electric Vehicles Burst Into Flames?

Many states are moving towards zero-emission vehicles by 2030, with California announcing to ban the sale of new gasoline cars from 2035. 

A director at the Environmental Protection Agency also expressed support for going all-electric by 2035. Changing the Clean Air Act could end the internal combustion engine, helping the US achieve its climate change goals.

You may hear about gasoline vehicle recalls, including the recent Ford Explorer and Ford Expedition, but these are due to manufacturer defects. No study suggests gasoline vehicles are more prone to bursting into flames than electric vehicles. Even electric vehicle fires are rare, but once it occurs, it causes serious damage and requires exhaustive measures to put the active fire out.

Schedule a Free Consultation with Ehline Law Car Crash Lawyers

If you suffered injuries in an accident due to a defective vehicle, contact us at (833) LETS-SUE for a free consultation, as you may be eligible for compensation.

Top Notch American Injury Lawyer, Michael Ehline

Michael Ehline

Michael is a managing partner at the nationwide Ehline Law Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, APLC. He’s an inactive Marine and became a lawyer in the California State Bar Law Office Study Program, later receiving his J.D. from UWLA School of Law. Michael has won some of the world’s largest motorcycle accident settlements.

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