Let's say In the United States there is a person with a drug and alcohol problem. The person goes to rent a truck from Home Depot for a few days. The person then gets involved in a drunk driving accident and the other driver is severely injured.

Can the person that was injured sue Home Depot for not vetting this driver appropriately? How is/ is not Home Depot held liable in this case? Is the only one that's held liable the driver in this case?

  • What do you consider proper vetting? Feb 28, 2023 at 21:38
  • While a federal law mentioned in an answer limited liability, the source of liability in the first place is state law and state law is not uniform on third-party liability for car accidents.
    – ohwilleke
    Mar 30, 2023 at 23:50
  • Somehow you never actually said when and who was drunk. I will assume by drunk driving accident, you mean that the person with the problem was drunk at the time of the accident and at fault? Were they visibly drunk when they rented the car?
    – nvoigt
    Mar 31, 2023 at 5:30

2 Answers 2


Mentioned "Home Depot", so clearly UK.

Home Depot would have to check that the driver has a valid driving license for the car. They would have to check that the driver has third party liability insurance that covers driving this rental car, or they can offer third party liability insurance.

The first thing to check would be who caused the accident. If a drunk driver is correctly stopped at a red traffic light, and someone drives into the back of their car, the drunk driver would be guilty of driving while drunk, but would very likely not be the one causing the accident. (There was an accident two miles from my home, where one driver was drunk, had no driving license, no insurance, his car was not fit for driving, and he was innocent of an accident because none of these things caused the accident. They still threw the book at him for his offences :-) Plus a person with an alcohol or drugs problem might never drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or they might not have been under the influence at this particular time. Being an alcoholic or drug addict doesn't mean you can't drive. Being actually under the influence at the time you want to drive means you can't drive.

If the drunk driver caused the accident, there should be third party liability insurance, and the insurance would have to pay for the victim's damages. The exception might be if the accident was caused intentionally. The insurance would most likely try to get their money back from the driver if they caused the accident by being drunk. If there is no insurance then you might sue Home Depot because they should have made sure that there was insurance. If there was no driving license, then Home Depot might get sued by the insurance company to recover their money because Home Depot should have checked for the license.

But usually someone else would compensate the victim. You would sue Home Depot if no insurance paid, and Home Depot violated their duties of checking there is a driving license and insurance. They may have violated their duties if the renter was drunk when trying to rent the car. And if neither insurance nor Home Depot pays, you can sue the driver.

  • 9
    Is this a typo: Clearly UK? as there are no Home Depot stores in the UK.
    – user35069
    Feb 28, 2023 at 12:40
  • See also homedepot.com.mx and homedepot.ca/en/home.html
    – bdb484
    Feb 28, 2023 at 17:43
  • To clarify what Rick said, Home Depot is a multinational company based in Atlanta, Georgia (and operates stores in the all 50 U.S states., 10 Canadian provinces, and all 32 states of Mexico).
    – hszmv
    Mar 31, 2023 at 11:49

The Graves Amendment bars vicarious liability for vehicle rental companies, provided that

(1) the owner (or an affiliate of the owner) is engaged in the trade or business of renting or leasing motor vehicles; and (2) there is no negligence or criminal wrongdoing on the part of the owner (or an affiliate of the owner).

However, Home Depot is not in the business of renting vehicles (btw we do not know if Home Depot itself rents out vehicles, or are they fronting for a real car rental company). The dangerous instrumentality doctrine would ordinarily make the vehicle-owner liable, but that federal law supersedes the ancient doctrine.

If the driver's license was actually suspended, the renter could be found liable, in a state where it is easily possible to check license status. It could be find to be negligent if the company chose not to do a simple albeit potentially ineffective check. The company cannot be expected to hire a private investigator to interview neighbors etc. to determine if the person has "problems".

In every state, the driver is required to have insurance that covers such liability. This would include Home Depot or whoever owns the vehicle. If the company does not have insurance that covers such liability, they are in violation of the law.

  • 3
    It doesn't say anything about companies whose sole or primary business is renting out vehicles. It just says engaged in the business of renting cars. Home Depot clearly is renting out cars as a business, so they would be covered.
    – user71659
    Mar 30, 2023 at 22:36
  • Agreed with @user71659 that saying Home Depot isn't a rental car company is like saying Wal Mart isn't a clothing store because it has a Home and Garden section. A company can offer more than one service. Part of the success of big box retail stores is that they offer a wide variety of goods and services in on location, as opposed to going to separate stores for plumbing, gardening, and rental vehicles.
    – hszmv
    Mar 31, 2023 at 10:47

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