A Yelm Army veteran is suing the rental car company Avis after a crash involving a foreign driver left him paralyzed from the waist down.
Nick Davey was an Army Ranger who led his men into dark alleys of Afghanistan. He survived three tours without a scratch.
“We’d just go after high-value targets. You’re going out some nights and you don’t know what’s going to happen, so that’s pretty stressful,” Davey explained.
After never losing a man in battle, Davey returned to Joint Base Lewis-McChord and found peace riding his motorcycle.
In July 2015, he decided to take his bike out for a ride in Centralia.
“The next thing I know, headlights on the left side of my bike. The only thing that ran through my head was – ‘I’m going to get hit by a car right now,’” Davey said.
Davey was taken to an area hospital, then flown to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle for surgery. The Saudi Arabian driver, who gave police the name AbudlAziz Obaydan, was cited for failing to yield the right of way.
Davey spent weeks recovering and rehabilitating. But he will never walk again.
“This is my life. This is frustrating, this is very aggravating, kind of just screwed my whole life up,” Davey explained.
Shortly after the crash, Obaydan left the country. There’s no video of him renting the car from the Avis location at Sea-Tac Airport. Avis also did not keep a copy of his passport.
Tony Shapiro now represents Davey in a lawsuit against Avis. He says under Washington law, Avis should not have rented the vehicle because the counter agent admits she couldn’t read his Saudi Arabian license.
“Given the fact that they’re renting, when in essence is a 4,000 pound potential weapon, you would want to know who’s renting your car and, if there’s a problem, how to get ahold of them,” Shapiro explained. “And what that does is it violates the statute because you need to make sure you have a facially valid license and she couldn’t tell whether that was a license or a high school diploma.”
According to court documents, Obaydan, provided Avis an address of Pocatello, Idaho and a phone number from Butte, Montana.
But he gave Centralia Police an address of Saudi Arabia and a phone number from Tacoma.
“The landlords at these various addresses have never heard of the man, he’s never lived there. And the phone numbers belong to other people who’ve never heard of this man,” Shapiro said.
The law says it is illegal to rent a vehicle until he or she has inspected the renter’s driver’s license and verified signatures. After the crash, Obaydan checked into a Centralia hotel. According to court documents, the same signature was used to sign into the hotel and return the damaged vehicle back to Avis. But not everything the driver allegedly signed matches.
“Our expert indicates that the signature on the rental agreement, the first signature, does not match the signature from the hotel or the signature from the accident report when he turned the car in, leading to the belief that there may be two different people who have signed those documents,” Shapiro explained.
However, Avis says Obaydan, showed the agent his Saudi license at the counter and it couldn’t refuse him as a customer.
In a statement, the company says “the police reviewed the same Saudi license at the accident scene, noted the Saudi license number on the police report and did not cite Mr. Obaydan for operating without a license.”
According to court documents, the driver’s license number Obaydan gave to Avis and Centralia police begins with the number one. But court documents also say the first number in a Saudi Arabian license always is the number two.
I spoke to Centralia Police Officer William Phipps, who was the officer that cited Obaydan. He says he couldn’t write Obaydan a ticket for driving without a license because his system couldn’t check the license.
“His was a Saudi Arabian driver’s license, so there’s no way to check their database,” Phipps said. “I had to take it on faith.”
Davey says he just wants the law to work and for Avis to be held accountable.
“I’m mad that they have a real terrible way of filtering people that can be trusted driving on the roads,” Davey explained.
So I decided to take Davey’s story to his State Senator, Randi Becker from the 2nd district. She’s written a bill that says rental car agencies that do not abide by state law can be held liable for negligence.
“The rental car companies are probably not going to like it, but if they really look at this bill that we’re dropping, it will actually… if they do their job, which means review the license, compare the signatures, do the record keeping, etc, they’re off the hook,” Becker explained.
The bill’s journey through the legislature has just begun, but Davey’s service to his country is over.
“It’s just more or less frustrating, kind of gets old. It’s not how I pictured how my life was going to end up,” Davey explained.
According to court documents, the Avis counter agent, in this case, received 30 written warnings for failure to follow company policies. Twenty- five of those reprimands were considered final warnings. Avis also says the agent did not and could not check the validity of a foreign license.
Avis has more than 30 offices in Saudi Arabia, according to its website. They also have a Facebook page.
Avis car rental company full statement:
“Renters must present a driver’s license when they pick up their vehicle. Mr. Obaydan showed our agent his Saudi license at the counter and we had no reason to refuse him as a customer. The police reviewed the same Saudi license at the accident scene, noted the Saudi license number on the police report and did not cite Mr. Obaydan for operating without a license. We were extremely sorry to hear about the accident involving Mr. Davey. Our thoughts are with him and his family.”