How a Michigan car owner got sued for an unlicensed mechanic accidentally killing a coworker during an oil change

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A Michigan man is being sued for the death of a mechanic for simply bringing his Jeep into the dealership for an oil change.

In March 2020, Sergio Enrique Diaz-Navarro brought his red 2019 Jeep Wrangler into the Rochester Hills Chrysler Jeep Dodge dealership for an oil change. Sadly, a tragic event happened during the service call of the car.

Daniel Thompson, 19, was working on Diaz-Navarro’s Jeep on March 13, 2020, when the vehicle “lurched forward,” crushing 42-year-old mechanic Jeffrey Hawkins against a cabinet, according to court records.

“Thompson reached into the vehicle and pressed brake with his right foot, keeping his other foot on the floor,” the court documents state. “He pressed the start button. When the vehicle did not start, he took his foot off the brake and depressed the clutch pedal. He again hit the start button. This time the Jeep started. He removed his foot from the clutch, still standing outside the vehicle. The vehicle lurched forward.”

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Thompson reportedly didn’t have a driver’s license and didn’t know how to drive a manual transmission.

Hawkins – a father of four – died from the tragic accident.

“He starts the engine, removes the clutch, and then a terrible thing happened – the car lunched and killed my client,” attorney David Femminineo – who is representing the Hawkins’ estate – told WJBK.

Despite Diaz-Navarro not being behind the wheel or anywhere near his own vehicle during the fatal event, the family of the deceased victim is suing him for negligence. Hawkins’ family expects to receive more than $15 million in damages from the car owner that was not present during the deadly accident.

Femminineo admitted, “We can’t (sue the dealership) because of a legal standard that is involved.”

The attorney said that the dealership can’t be sued because of a legal standard preventing an employee from suing their boss for negligence.

The Washington Examiner reported, “Diaz-Navarro is considered liable for giving his keys to the dealership because of a vicarious liability law in the state that holds that owners are automatically liable for the negligence of drivers — a principle that could extend to mechanics, valet attendants, and others.”

Diaz-Navarro’s insurance company has already paid $100,000 for the accidental death.

A lawyer for Diaz-Navarro said, “When you hand your car over to anybody, including the valet or the person at the service desk at your local dealership, you better be able to trust that person.”

Carscoops reports, “The dealership is not getting away scot-free, though. Rochester Hill Chrysler Dodge has been ordered by the court to indemnify Diaz-Navarro if he is found liable of negligence.”

“So in reality, the owner is going to be held responsible, but the dealership’s insurance company is paying,” Femminineo told the Kansas City Star. The dealership is expected to appeal the decision if they are held liable for the death.

The lawsuit against Diaz-Navarro is scheduled to head to trial at the end of May.

Jeep owner is sued after dealership employee was killed during oil change

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