In Thayer v. Randy Marion Chevrolet Buick Cadillac, LLC, No. 21-10744, 2022 U.S. App. LEXIS 9957, at *7-9 (11th Cir. Apr. 13, 2022), the Court of Appeals found that the Graves Amendment limited an automobile dealer’s loaner vehicle to a customer who was provided the loaner while the customer’s vehicle was being repaired.
Thayer argues that a rent or lease requires a set, agreed-upon payment of money. But as the definition above shows, consideration is broader than simply the payment of money. And to the extent a rent or lease requires agreed-upon consideration, this exchange had that. The Popes agreed to bring their own car to Randy Marion and pay for the repairs in exchange for the use of a vehicle. Thayer also argues that the Popes paid no money specifically for the rental. But Randy Marion suggests it factors the cost of providing such vehicles into its service prices. And even if it does not, the Popes still provided consideration, as noted above. Requiring a customer to pay specifically for the rental car would remove from Graves Amendment protection any car rented through a vacation package where the customer’s payment for the package includes an airline ticket, hotel, and rental car. We cannot agree that a rental or lease requires the sort of specific payment Thayer argues it does. Similarly, Thayer also suggests that a periodic payment is necessary for a rental or lease. But most rental cars are rented for a one-time payment, meaning that fact cannot preclude application of the Graves Amendment. The facts here can be easily distinguished from fact-patterns that may fall outside the scope of the Graves Amendment. This is not a situation where a car dealership has provided a gratuitous test drive to a potential customer in the hopes that the customer will ultimately purchase the car. Nor is this a situation where the Popes had a loaner agreement with Randy Marion that expressly provided that the loaner was provided free of charge. While we express no opinion on whether the Graves Amendment would apply in such situations, suffice it to say we make no decision in this case with respect to such situations. Similarly, this appeal presents no occasion for a holding with respect to the meaning or scope of the Graves Amendment’s trade or business requirement—that “the owner (or an affiliate of the owner) [be] engaged in the trade or business of renting or leasing motor vehicles”—because Thayer has not challenged on appeal the district court’s ruling in that regard. Thayer’s second argument—that summary judgment was precluded because Randy Marion referred to the vehicle as a “rental” and a “loaner”—also fails. Whatever label Randy Marion happened to assign to the vehicle here does not control the legal determination of whether the Graves Amendment applies. The substance of the transaction, not the label used, controls. Here, the Popes provided consideration for the use of the vehicle. As a result, Randy Marion rented or leased the vehicle to the Popes, and the Graves Amendment applies, regardless of any labels used.