A parking lot attendant drove a customer to her place of business, and, while returning the automobile to the parking lot, negligently struck the plaintiff, a pedestrian, who successfully recovered against the customer under the following Georgia statute: “Every owner of a motor vehicle . . . shall be liable . . . for injuries . . . resulting from negligence in the operation of such motor vehicle if . . . used in the prosecution of the business (or) for the benefit of such owner.” On appeal, Held: the statute violates due process because it might impose liability upon an owner whose automobile was operated without his consent or knowledge, express or implied. Frankel v. Cone, 214 Ga. 733, 107 S.E.2d 819 (1959).
A statute is invalid if it makes an owner absolutely liable for the negligence of a thief, but this statute did not reach that far. It is very difficult to imagine a thief operating a stolen automobile for the owner’s benefit, or in the prosecution of the owner’s business. On the other hand, statutes imposing liability upon a car owner whose car is operated with his permission have been uniformly upheld.
Richard E. Gee,
Constitutional Law—Invalidating Statutes on Hypothetical Facts,
39 Neb. L. Rev. 435
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