How responsible are you for another person’s actions?
If you loan your car to a friend, and the friend gets into an accident, it’s generally understood that as the owner of the car, you’ll be held legally liable to some degree.
But if you loan your car to a friend, and the friend uses the car to drive three other people to a house where they commit murder, are you just as guilty as those who took part in the crime, even though you weren’t even there?
A Florida court says yes. In Serving Life for Providing Car to Killers the New York Times examines the case of 20 year old Ryan Holle, currently serving a life sentence without possibility of parole in a Florida prison. A jury found him guilty of first-degree murder because he lent his car to a friend, who then drove three other men to a house where they killed an 18 year old girl. Holle was elsewhere when the crime occurred.
In assigning responsibility to Holle, the prosecutor connected the dots:
“No car, no crime.”
“No car, no murder.”
“This crime could not and would not have been committed without Mr. Holle’s car,” he concluded.
But what if the car had been a rental—should the desk clerk or even the CEO of the company be held responsible? Should the same theory be applied to gun dealers—no gun, no murder? Where does the chain of responsibility begin and end?