• Dec 14th 2010 at 7:01PM
  • 104
Do you occasionally leave your keys in the car? We all have at one point, be it just running in to the ATM or stopping by a friend's house to drop off a borrowed tool. In that short time you are out of the vehicle, it's quite possible that someone could be watching and take off with your wheels. Since the new "owner" probably doesn't care too much about your vehicle and may be trying to escape from the authorities, it isn't too hard to see how the stolen vehicle could end up in a collision or as the focal point of a tragic accident. If all of the above happens and you live in Tennessee, then prepare to have your cash reserves depleted.

A suit was brought against a man who left his keys in his car, which was promptly stolen and then collided with another vehicle causing injuries to three passengers. Initially, the lawsuit was filed against the city of Murfreesboro and its police department– however, that suit was dismissed by the Tennessee Court of Appeals. But the court is allowing the suit against the owners of the vehicle to continue.

"Negligence" is the Word of the Day for Rubye Jarrell, the registered owner of the car and grandmother to Joseph D. Ash Jr., who apparently left the keys inside. According to the appeals court, it does not matter if the keys were in the ignition or somewhere in plain sight, Jarrell is still liable.

What do you think – should Jarrell be deemed negligent and face legal consequences? Have your say in Comments.

[Source: The Associated Press via Tennessean | Image: fourbyfourblazer | CC 2.0]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 4 Years Ago
      I think the thief is liable, for chrissakes!! The second place award in my mind should be Ash, and THEN MAYBE Rubye. This smacks of the earlier Autoblog article about some city considering fining people for leaving their car doors unlocked since it makes them more susceptible to theft and subsequent law enforcement efforts/expenses.
        • 4 Years Ago
        The ambulance chasers involved in this case are no less morally absent than the man who stole the car and therefore belong in the same place. The person who left the keys in the car made an honest mistake and these clowns want to step on him when he is down.

        It's lowlifes like these lawyers that are turning this country into a police-state, with their frivolous suits costing us our freedoms, little by little!!


        Speak for yourself there bud. There still are some of us with some dignity and a conscience.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Just follow the money.

        Undoubtedly, the perp doesn't have any assets. The car owner has assets and an insurance policy. Lord I hate personal injury attorneys.
        • 4 Years Ago
        What's the big deal about this lawsuit? Shut up for cryin' out loud. This is America, and that's what we do: frivilous lawsuits. It happens every day somewhere. And YOU would do the same thing if a lawyer said "hey, I can get you a mill!" Don't deny it.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Thanks Dave, I was wondering if value of the vehicle as a representation of the owners wealth played into it.
        • 4 Years Ago

        If you leave GAS in your car, its your fault it was stolen.
        If you leave tires on your car, its your fault.
        If you leave electronic wiring harnesses in your car its your fault...
        If you leave a stick shifter in your car...
        • 4 Years Ago

        if someone stolen my knife and kill people, am i responsible for the death?
        if Shell sold me the gas and my car get into accident, should Shell take responsibility?
        heck, if i failed in life when i hit mid 40, should my parents take responsibility?
        • 4 Years Ago
        Jared nailed it.
        "the perp doesn't have any assets. The car owner has assets and an insurance policy."

        Get ready for the day when the car company exec living closest to the scene of the accident and making over $250K a year will be responsible.
        • 4 Years Ago
        An elaborate attempt to help the injured victims to the owner's insurance policy. The unintended consequences and the destruction of societal equity are casually disregarded by political judges who don't want any ugly cases to inhibit their careers.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I wonder if the thief does a driveby in said stolen vehicle if the owner would be responsible for that too.

        Amazing how courts fail in common sense.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @Ericdj, this is from the court brief:

        "Ms. Newman’s car, a 1994 Dodge Spirit, was struck by a 1995 Mercury Grand Marquis registered to Rubye Jarrell. The Grand Marquis had been stolen earlier that day and at the time of the collision was driven by an unknown driver. Shortly before the accident, Murfreesboro police officers had attempted to stop the Grand Marquis due to its excessive speed, but the Grand Marquis failed to stop."
        • 4 Years Ago
        As a TN resident, let me shed some light on how bad the ambulance chasers are around here. This is a legit (legally speaking, morally they are bankrupt) law firm based out of Knoxville, and that runs radio ads all day everyday with this slogan.

        "Turn your wreck into a check."

        Personally, I hope they die in a Christmas morning house fire, but that's just me.

      Just Me
      • 3 Months Ago

      I woul dlike to bring this topic back for discussion if possible.  There will be a jury trial in August, 2015 FINALLY.  The perp was never apprehended.  The original lawsuit was filed against the city, the police department (for chasing the car twice and backing off), Mrs. Jarrell, and her grandson.  The Supreme Court of TN dropped everone except the grandson from the suit.  One eye witness has passed due to stress from this incident.  The only person they are suing now has no assets.

      So we're about to find out if 12 jurors can agree on a verdict.  BTW, the keys were NOT in the ignition.  If 12 people think the grandson borrowing grandma's car with her approval is guilty for "allowing" it to be stolen and crashed AFTER the police failed to do their job, I'll be even more convinced about the "good ole boy" mentality of this county.

      It has been 8 years and the plaintiff (a heavy smoker) is now blaming her COPD on this accident.  I'm sure this will be brought up in court.  

      • 4 Years Ago
      Being a NYer, I have often wondered about this in other parts of the country where keys are left in the ignition. How often those cars get stolen. Insurance companies do not cover accident (payout) caused by unauthorized use (read stolen) usually, but do defend the owners against someone trying to take them to court. Authorized use can sometimes be considered by who has the keys.

      Personally I think this is wrong, it is like holding a licensed gun owner liable for the crimes commited with the gun that was stolen from him. This can be expanded in many ways. I hope he appeals as this is just a wrong decision
      concerned party
      • 3 Years Ago
      Hello. Let's just say I'm "closely related" to this situation. I know this is an old post, but I think it's important to point out that the police did not catch the thieves. The police actually gave up and drove off before the crash happened. At witness described seeing "jufeniles" running from the vehicle. If they didn't catch them how could they know their ages? The perps threw CDs out the car window, and the police dusted them as well as the interior of the car for prints. Then they said fingerprints are acidic and cannot be used in a case like this. Murfreesboro is a crooked little town with corrupt police.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I have a Ford with the touch-pad and often leave the keys in the car using the touch-pad to lock the car. I guess I'll have to stop doing that.
      • 4 Years Ago
      The pragmatism of the Court's decision is they left a potential source of financial recovery (grandma's retirement) and protected the local Police. They figure the local police get paid out of the same pile of revenue that pays for the Court.

      Always tough to sue the King in the King's Court. Even tougher if you are the King's co-defendant.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I used to leave my keys in my spec-v on purpose hoping it'd get stolen...no luck.. damn law abiding people in my area.
      • 4 Years Ago
      this is bad law and will not withstand cogent argument by defence counsel. negligence is a tort and requires not only a duty but a causation component to be satisfied; did the leaving of the keys 'in plain sight' hypothetically cause the injuring of passengers in a third party vehicle? no. there is also both factual as well as legal causation, the former asking whether, but for the leaving of the keys, the injury would not have happened and, respectively, the latter turns on the policy of allowing unforeseeable events to form the basis for denying a defence of blatant inaction. anyone else want to pick up on this?
      • 4 Years Ago
      and I thought it was ridiculous that people getting hurt while breaking into your house can sue you! Just goes to further my opinion on concealed carry permits, if you are threatened in ANY way, you or your property, have the right to shot to kill the perpetrator!
      Justice has now become only important if the courts can get money from you
      • 4 Years Ago
      So, according to the courts, if I voluntarily stuff down 10 Big Macs a day, I can successfully sue McDonalds for "making me obese."

      And NOW I can steal a car, kill somebody with it, and blame the victim that I stole the car from??

      Yeah, sounds about right...
      • 4 Years Ago
      The thief is the one who is liable since he is the one who committed the crime!!! If there were no thieves, we could all leave the keys in our cars and not have any worries so leaving a key in the car is not the problem... People are so stupid! What a shame...
      • 4 Years Ago
      Stupid Criminal, Stupid Judge, Stupid Plaintiff
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