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Six teens were killed in a crash in Ohio early Sunday, while two others in the SUV were able to escape. None of the teens had permission to use the vehicle, authorities said.
The eight teens had squeezed into a Honda Passport that was made to seat five, CNN reports. The 19-year-old driver lost control on a two-lane road near Warren, Ohio, and the SUV flipped over into a pond. The driver and five others, ages 14 to 17, were killed.
A state trooper said the vehicle was speeding at the time of the crash, though investigators have not yet determined what caused the accident. But if the two survivors, or relatives of the victims, decide to sue over the crash, the alleged lack of permission to use the car may be a critical factor.
In general, accidents involving teenage drivers who don't own the vehicle they're driving can potentially fall under several theories of liability.
For example, parents may be liable for their child's car accident under what's called the "Family Car doctrine." Under the doctrine, a parent can be deemed responsible for personal injuries or property damage caused by children who drive the family car.
In addition, parents may be liable for negligently entrusting their children with the car. For example, if a parent has some reason to know that a child should not be driving, the parent could be liable for handing over the keys to the car.
However, under both theories, parents would only be liable if they allowed the child to drive. That means in the Ohio crash that killed six teenagers, the alleged lack of permission may allow the car's owner to avoid liability if any wrongful death actions are filed.
Parents may also be held liable for negligence in allowing a driver to use an unsafe or defective car. While express consent may not necessarily be given in this situation, a parent may be held liable if he has reason to know that a child will use the unsafe car anyway.