Oregon Man Sued After Thief Steals His Car and Crashes Weeks Later

George Hinnenkamp, 89, can be forgiven for being as “surprised as hell” in being sued recently by two passengers involved in an accident in his car. First, he was not driving the car at the time. Second, the driver was the man who stole his car.

Hinnenkamp’s Thunderbird was stolen in June 2009 by a man he had hired to do odd jobs. Joseph Dinwiddie, 35, was driving with two other passengers–Nicole Annette Cunningham and Delano Oscar, when he crashed the car. While Dinwiddie is also sued, he was tried and convicted of auto theft for stealing the car in the first place. That practically leaves Hinnenkamp. Cunningham and Oscar claim that he bore responsibility because he allowed Dinwiddie to use the car.

I am not sure of the lawyer in this case, but it would appear frivolous on its face and has all of the markings of a strike suit. Yet, we have seen previous cases like this where the usual superseding intervening factor of a crime is ignored. Even suicidal drivers have found lawyers. This includes cases where accidents follow car thefts. Some lawyers take the approach of suing them all and letting God sort them out — despite ethical rules that call for more tailored and logical actions.

Of course, if the prosecutor and investigator take your car and crash it, you have not case for damages.

In the Oregon case, the mere fact that you allow a person to use your car is neither an invitation for car theft or reckless driving. The fact that he immediately called police makes the claim all the more meritless, in my view.

Source: Seattle Weekly

22 thoughts on “Oregon Man Sued After Thief Steals His Car and Crashes Weeks Later”

  1. It’s much worse than that.

    Just read this account of the case: http://onlinefreecarinsurancequotes.com/car-insurance-policies-owner-sued-in-car-thiefs-crash/

    From which we learn:

    “Things got worse when Oregon State Police called the late rancher at 10:30 p.m. to say the automobile he’d reported stolen had been wrecked in an alcohol-related crash.”

    The rancher seems to have died at the time of the accident, and the police were busy calling this guy (zombie? vampire? werewolf?)

    ““I was astounded as hell,” Hinnenkamp, right away 91, mentioned this week. “He took my automobile without consent and wrecked the damn thing. And we comprehend he was celebration all the time.””

    This is very poor grammar, but actually not too bad for a zombie.

    “In their suits, Cunningham and Oscar affirm that Dinwiddie was Hinnenkamp’s worker the night of the crash, and that the comparison human had since him consent to expostulate the car.”

    So, now we have androids involved (or is this the zombie?), and they seem to have given permission for the driver to be argue with the car.

    The DA insists the androids never gave permission to argue with the car.

    ““He did not have consent to expostulate Mr. Hinnenkamp’s car,” Miller said.”

    Turns out in Oregon, that DUIs extend to pushing your car while shitfaced:

    “Dinwiddie was convicted of without official authorization use of a engine vehicle, together with of pushing intoxicated, forward driving, fast endangering other person, and two counts of third-degree attack for injuring Cunningham and Oscar.”

    And one of the injured passengers suffered the loss of her psychic skills, and was unable to attend a conference (of psychics?)

    “Cunningham, 36, purported that she suffered the same variety of injuries in her back, ankle, hips and pelvis, together with pelvic fractures and visit “headaches, prophesy and conference loss” and dizziness. She seeks $20,000 in medical costs and $125,000 in non-economic damages.”

  2. He’s probably out getting his bobcat’s groomed for the holiday season, Blouise. They have to look their best when they maul Santa for daring to enter the house via the chimney.

  3. mespo,

    I’d suggest adding a “Curses!” to your “Foiled again!” but it is my understanding that you must have a handlebar mustache to twirl and/or a girl tied to rails and recently rescued by a Mountie to use that phrase.

  4. Maybe I should have gone to law school 🙂 The first thing I thought of when I read this was “how could the car have been stolen for 3 years& never found?” I’d argue the defendant knew the driver was using the car & had some liability.

    I was hoping to appear all smart and comment but mespo beat me too it – damn lawyers!

  5. I think Mespo has made a good case for a “let’s wait for all the facts to come out” position. However, the bias of the press story is a good example of how peoples negative views of the legal system get reinforced. I’m also willing to bet there will never be a following story derailing the rest of this suit,

  6. mespo, they have a line of products for analyzing cases, including one called TimeMap.

  7. Dredd:

    Let me give you one example from a case of mine. I represented a young man horribly injured when a dump truck slammed into his car. The dump truck driver was DUI. The owner claimed the truck was stolen by his employee and he reported the theft almost immediately after noticing it gone. In deposition, we found out the owner had given the driver a set of keys in an effort to get him off to an early start in the morning. He also let his employee drive the truck on personal business and to do “side work” to earn extra money hauling. We also found he’s meet his crew with beer after work every Friday and during some mid-week days, and would sit around drinking with them for hours. We also determined the owner knew the man had a previous DUI after he hired him [he paid for the man’s lawyer] and used to make light of his heavy drinking.

    Oh, and the report of the theft: we found out he made it while sitting in his office that was outfitted with a police scanner, and about 3 minutes after making a call to his attoney’s house on a Saturday. Case settled.

  8. This looks like an implied bailment/negligent entrustment case,and, as one whose been involved in hundreds of them, I’ll reserve judgment. I suspect the plaintiff’s lawyer will argue that the owner had permitted the defendant to drive the car in the past and thus the negligent driver reasonably believed he had implied permission which would trigger the insurance coverage of the owner. It is likely the plaintiffs will argue that the owner knew or should have known of the defendant’s poor driving habits and negligently put others in danger by impliedly lending him the car. [Query, what if duing one of the previous permitted uses of the car, the owner was well aware that the negigent driver had three previous DUI convictions and during the use struck and killed a three-year-old child crossing in the crossswalk while intoxicated? Still sympathize with the owner?]

    In the alternative, Plaintiffs may argue coverage is triggered by the negligent driver being a “substitute insured” under the policy as a driver with implied permission. This may be what’s going on as the article is unclear as to the nature of thelawsuit and just who is across the “v.” I suspect the insurer is disavowing liability coverage by filing a declaratory judgment acion on the policy to have the court rule there was no permission.

    By the way, the article is poorly written and worded in such a way as to invite criticism of the system and the lawyers involved: “… –unfortunately had a pair of litigious passengers in the car at the time, … [oops, your bias is showing. It’s like saying those newspaper are “litigious” when then sue under a state’s open meetings law] …” Hinnenkamp’s Thunderbird was fully insured at the time, it would seem that Cunningham and Oscar are hoping for an easy settlement from the insurance agency” [they don’t happen these days by the way]. That’s yellow journalism running heedlessly into a case with only the sheerest veneer of facts. Where is the comment from the Plaintiff’s lawyer or the attempt to get one?

    The plaintiff’s lawyer has the ethical obligation to explore all theories of recovery, no matter how farfetched so long as it’s supported by law and facts. That’s how the law grows. I think we’ll see a better picture emerge once depositions shed light on the particulars of the relationship between the owner and the negligent “borrower.”

  9. This is where the laws of torts and I part ways… This attorney has no moral compass… Maybe he’ll fit right in if he decides to become a politician….

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