Liability and overweight towing (split from Towing 13' Scamp...) - Fiberglass RV


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Old 04-15-2014, 03:31 PM   #1
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Liability and overweight towing (split from Towing 13' Scamp...)

Admin note: This thread created from Towing 13' Scamp with 4-Cyl RAV4.

Quote Rogerdat: "On the legal question I would also think that having the dealer install "proper" equipment for towing your trailer should all but eliminate legal concerns. If the dealer installs it knowing what it's going to tow how would you be towing beyond rated capacity?"
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Toyota (and all other vehicle manufacturers) specifically prohibit it's dealers from modifying printed specifications for it's products. In short, if they do, they are on their own.

That said, in order to transfer legal obligations to the dealer for such modifications, a customer would have to get a written statement from the modifying dealer stating the scope of the modifications and the exact use for which they were made. Otherwise, it's still on the owner..... and no U.S. dealer would be fool enough to do that.
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Old 04-15-2014, 04:23 PM   #2
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Ya know...I think it's time to lay the "you're legally doomed if your trailer's overweight" thing to rest.

I've seen/heard that said at least eleventy bazillion times, both here and at other sites. I probably even said so myself a time or two, given that I, too, once believed it to be true.

But guess what?

Search high and low though I have, I've been unable to turn up even one instance where some poor doofus towing way over the "manufacturer's limit" has EVER suffered any legal consequences directly related to that fact. It just doesn't happen. One can be found at fault in an accident for a whole lot of reasons, but I guarantee all that no such finding will be made based solely (or even partly) on the fact that one vehicle involved was towing "over the weight limit allowed by the mfr.".

The only direct financial consequence of exceeding mfr.'s recommendations is of course the potential effect on vehicle warranty coverage. Now, that is a real threat worthy of consideration, and for owners of vehicles still within warranty periods, very important to consider.
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Old 04-15-2014, 05:06 PM   #3
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Sorry Francesca, I can't agree and here's several reasons why:

1. Laws prohibiting "Operation of a vehicle outside of it's manufacturers designed limits on a public highway" is usually listed in most states vehicle code.

2. Doing same, in tort law, has implied liabilities.

3. In a recent case in Pasadena, CA, a truck driver was tried and sent to jail for operation of a truck where an overloaded condition (for the road in this case) was cited as the cause of an accident that led to a fatality.

In any case of a situation where a vehicle couldn't "quite" stop in time to avoid an accident, even a 2nd year law student would seize that precedent as cause for action.

4. In most cases the point is raised when a newbie is asking about towing. Perhaps it's not the best advise to tell them to ignore manufacturers limits without some reference to possible repercussions.

5. If you did a search in Lexis/Nexis (the lawyers case research resource) I am sure you will find a number of cites. In any numbers of lawyers opinion; "If you didn't search Lexis/Nexis, you haven't done a search"

6. And beyond that, while few out of spec caused accidents may rise to the level of a court case, it's useful to know that it is a possibility, and that may give second thoughts to what is a bad idea.
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Old 04-15-2014, 05:23 PM   #4
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Name me one case where anyone was found legally negligent/liable for damages for "exceeding mfr. recommended tow limit", and I'll eat not only my words, but also my hat, your hat, and the hat of the horse you rode in on, Bob.

It just doesn't happen.

That's not to say it's wise to ignore mfr. numbers/limits. There are plenty of valid reasons to take those most seriously. But fears of such dire "legal consequences" as those you refer to so darkly are not among those reasons.
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Old 04-15-2014, 05:24 PM   #5
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And, outside of Prince George, BC, a few years ago, RCMP were cracking down on overweight campers ( mostly truck campers on inadequate trucks ).
Stopped them, inspected, weighed and then impounded them and issued tickets. Police anywhere any time may decide to run an enforcement program. Your risk.
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Old 04-15-2014, 05:47 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Glenn Baglo View Post
And, outside of Prince George, BC, a few years ago, RCMP were cracking down on overweight campers ( mostly truck campers on inadequate trucks ).
Stopped them, inspected, weighed and then impounded them and issued tickets. Police anywhere any time may decide to run an enforcement program. Your risk.
I'm talking about the Bob's Litigious U.S.A., but since you bring Canada up too, Glenn:

I've heard/seen the "pickups gettin' busted for overweight in B.C." stories, too. Not the same thing we're talking about here- Canadian "sweeps" as I understand them have to do with exceeding combined axle limits of the pickup truck under the camper.

Nothing to do with anything being towed. Trailers and tugs are each evaluated according to axle (gross weight) individually. See this B.C. Gov. link
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Old 04-15-2014, 09:02 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Miller View Post
Quote Rogerdat: "On the legal question I would also think that having the dealer install "proper" equipment for towing your trailer should all but eliminate legal concerns. If the dealer installs it knowing what it's going to tow how would you be towing beyond rated capacity?"
--------------------------------------------------------------
Toyota (and all other vehicle manufacturers) specifically prohibit it's dealers from modifying printed specifications for it's products. In short, if they do, they are on their own.

That said, in order to transfer legal obligations to the dealer for such modifications, a customer would have to get a written statement from the modifying dealer stating the scope of the modifications and the exact use for which they were made. Otherwise, it's still on the owner..... and no U.S. dealer would be fool enough to do that.
I would think it is safe bet that the dealer would not make modifications that "exceed the vehicle manufacturers limits" in the first place.

Thus one can safely assume if dealer modifies the vehicle it will conform to manufactures specifications for towing modification.

The dealers service department professional opinion is better than our speculations on what is within limits.

Followed by opinions on how well it works of those with experience directly related to the specific situation.
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Old 04-15-2014, 09:32 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Glenn Baglo View Post
And, outside of Prince George, BC, a few years ago, RCMP were cracking down on overweight campers ( mostly truck campers on inadequate trucks ).
Stopped them, inspected, weighed and then impounded them and issued tickets. Police anywhere any time may decide to run an enforcement program. Your risk.
Yup they do it on Vancouver Island as well as outside of Kelowna BC every summer!

Its important to remember when this discussion comes up that although some one can have an accident and not be charged with anything that was illegal the civil courts are a whole different matter. An actual law does not need to have been broken for someone to find themselves paying out large amounts in a civil case where the majority of injury and death cases caused by accidents end up. Find yourself a lawyer who has access to searching civil cases for you from there pay for service .... pretty sure they will be able to dig up some pretty interesting reading.
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Old 04-15-2014, 10:15 PM   #9
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What Carols excellent post is further supported by is "Tort Law".

Basically, if you do something wrong, even thought it does not exist in law, you can be held liable for that action.
This link offers a simple explanation, paragraph 2 outlines the three criteria needed to meet the test.

Tort Law legal definition of Tort Law. Tort Law synonyms by the Free Online Law Dictionary.
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Old 04-15-2014, 10:27 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Francesca Knowles View Post
I'm talking about the Bob's Litigious U.S.A., but since you bring Canada up too, Glenn:

I've heard/seen the "pickups gettin' busted for overweight in B.C." stories, too. Not the same thing we're talking about here- Canadian "sweeps" as I understand them have to do with exceeding combined axle limits of the pickup truck under the camper.

Nothing to do with anything being towed. Trailers and tugs are each evaluated according to axle (gross weight) individually. See this B.C. Gov. link
While you are in part correct Francesca they are actually putting a lot of focus on people pulling trailers or boats in combo with a camper on the rear of the truck. There are also targeting smallish SUV's loaded down with family and gear and pulling trailers or boats as many of the those although pulling something within their towing capacity are also over their Gross Vehicle Weight Rating.

Having said that I have been in such stops and so have other family members and for what it is worth they have been known to ask to see the vehicles manual for its towing spec rating.

Also in BC we have one insurance company called ICBC that we all have to buy our basic insurance coverage for the vehicle and the trailer and funny enough they have a PDF on towing that you can read located at ICBC.com ICBC Trailer-full PDF. pay particular attention to page 7 on the left you will see a FAST FACT box with reads "Exceeding the load capacity, GVWR or towing capacity is unsafe and may void any warranty on the vehicle. Motor Vehicle Act Regulations prohibit the operation of vehicles that are unsafely or improperly loaded, or that exceed weight ratings."

On the same page it also reads:

"Towing and weight capacity
You need to know the truck’s: • towing capacity rating,
• GVWR, and
• load capacity.
These are usually listed in the owner’s manual and on a plate or decal on the vehicle.
Make sure that the truck’s towing capacity, GVWR and load capacity are rated for the load to be carried and the trailer you want to tow."

As ICBC is ultimately the folks who will pay for any damages done as a result of an accident found to be caused by towing over a vehicles capacity after reading the above do you honestly think you might not have a problem with them paying out if your towing something over the vehicles tow rating .... lots of folks will tell you that ICBC isn't known for it generosity when it comes to paying claims on behalf of its customers.
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Old 04-16-2014, 12:01 AM   #11
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Dealing specifically with the question that started this discussion towing a scamp 13 with a Rav4 using dealer installed equipment that dealer service manager states is suitable to allow that Rav4 to tow that 13 foot scamp.

Reading through the definition of Tort law provided by Bob some things jump out at me. Not one of which would be satisfied by going to the dealer and having them install towing equipment they sell as suitable to the trailer and vehicle they also sell.

...these objectives are served when tort liability is imposed on tortfeasors for intentional wrongdoing, Negligence, and ultrahazardous activities.

Towing with equipment supplied by manufacturer is certainly not negligence, nor could a reasonable person consider it ultrahazardous.

Courts analyze this issue by determining whether the plaintiff's injury would have occurred "but for" the defendant's conduct. If an injury would have occurred independent of the defendant's conduct, cause in fact has not been established, and no tort has been committed. When multiple factors have led to a particular injury, the plaintiff must demonstrate that the tortfeasor's action played a substantial role in causing the injury.

Again if we are talking about the tow capacity, if the dealer installed it for you "your action" of using said equipment would fail to play a substantial role. If you had not run into them might be considered germane but the tow set up would not.

If a given risk could not have been reasonably anticipated, proximate cause has not been established, and liability will not be imposed.

This is the icing on the cake. How could a person reasonably anticipate that the dealer installed equipment to tow a trailer of a weight and size known to the dealer would be a "risk" that should have been anticipated.

One can be sued or sue others for anything. However winning in court is unlikely given an informed professional installation by the dealer of the tow vehicle.

Let us just suppose the defense puts on the stand the professional service manager with training and experience for his opinion of how safe the tow set up was. The plaintiff put one of us on the stand to refute them. See the difference? Pretty sure the judge or jury would.

Actually if the tow hitch and normally loaded trailer was in any way the cause of an accident the plaintiff would more likely be the Rav4 owner the dealership would be the defendant.
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Old 04-16-2014, 12:11 AM   #12
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Bob was that truck driver you referenced earlier Marcos Barbosa Costa? Having trouble locating story of overloaded truck fatality you were referring to.
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Old 04-16-2014, 12:47 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RogerDat View Post


This is the icing on the cake. How could a person reasonably anticipate that the dealer installed equipment to tow a trailer of a weight and size known to the dealer would be a "risk" that should have been anticipated.

One can be sued or sue others for anything. However winning in court is unlikely given an informed professional installation by the dealer of the tow vehicle.

Let us just suppose the defense puts on the stand the professional service manager with training and experience for his opinion of how safe the tow set up was. The plaintiff put one of us on the stand to refute them. See the difference? Pretty sure the judge or jury would.

Actually if the tow hitch and normally loaded trailer was in any way the cause of an accident the plaintiff would more likely be the Rav4 owner the dealership would be the defendant.
I suspect your correct but then again perhaps not. A great deal depends on what the dealer was told the weight of the trailer the owner was planning to tow actually was and what their actual response as to what the tow vehicles towing capacity was with the equipment they installed .... thats the part of the story that I am not sure we have totally heard in regards to the original post.
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Old 04-16-2014, 06:36 AM   #14
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If I have a fender-bender with someone that I suspect is towing over the limit I will point it out to the police as to why I believe they were not able to control their rig and avoid the accident. Even if they had the right of way, they are not entitled to hit me. For example, I can't just mow over a jaywalker just because they didn't cross where indicated. I have to make a good faith effort to avoid them. Towing outside of published maximums would likely cause the liability to be assigned to them. But as always I assume that it depends on the jury/judge.

I'll look again but I've searched before and found law firms specializing in suing dealerships or modders who promote overloaded vehicles. I found one RV dealership held accountable for assuring the plaintiffs that their tow vehicle could handle some monstrosity of a trailer that he was selling.

My recollection is that the dealer settled out of court. In the out-of-court settlement there were 3rd party deaths from the out of control overloaded rig striking them and the defendant was the RV dealership. If an RV dealership weren’t involved, say the owner was towing with some newer, lower rated tow vehicle, I would expect the lawyers to come after the driver of the rig in question.

I can't find results of actual lawsuits (I'm not clear that trial results are to be found on publically accessable sites) but I wonder if they aren't successful often enough because there are lawyers who specialize in it.
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