Tamer Botros – Budget Rent-a-Car Las Vegas
Las Vegas is a 24/7 kind of city, with towering resorts rising from the desert, sprawling casino floors and, of course, the roaring traffic.
It’s this last facet of Las Vegas life that most occupies Tamer Botros. As general counsel for Budget Rent-a-Car Las Vegas, he’s the defender of Budget’s legal rights in the city, handling everything from litigation to customer terms and conditions. In a town that can be a little seedy, he’s encountered some sharp-elbowed tactics, but the idealism that carried him through law school has remained intact.
Specifically, Botros claims he once received a threatening voicemail from an opposing counsel, a successful Las Vegas personal injury attorney, demanding that Botros settle a case or face a bar complaint. Budget hired outside counsel to send a strongly worded letter to that attorney and to make the federal district court aware of the voicemail.
“It was designed to take my eye off the ball,” Botros says. “To instill fear in me, frighten me, to basically make me say, ‘Look, I’m just gonna forego this whole thing.’ And it was wrong.”
A little-tried legal strategy
Lately, Botros has been filing so-called declaratory relief actions in federal court, arguing that a federal law, known as the Graves Amendment, protects Budget from liability if a customer crashes one of the company’s cars.
The statute, passed by Congress and signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2005, states that a vehicle owner who rents or leases a vehicle to someone else will not be liable for property damage or personal injury that results from the use, operation or possession of that vehicle.
In contrast, Nevada has a state law that holds rental car companies liable for the negligence of renters. That’s led to lawsuits against Budget, with personal injury attorneys citing the state law—and some judges siding with them.
Through declaratory relief actions in U.S. District Court, District of Nevada, Botros is pointing to the preemption doctrine, an idea derived from the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution, which basically requires judges to defer to federal law if a state law conflicts with federal statute.
Filing these declaratory relief suits has “only been tried twice in the entire United States,” Botros says. “It’s basically getting one step ahead of the other side and saying, ‘Look, federal district court here in Nevada, this is a federal law.’”
Botros says he’s gotten mixed results from this legal strategy. Some attorneys he’s faced have gone ahead and filed their lawsuits, taking their chances on a favorable outcome in court. And he says some judges have been skeptical of his arguments, pointing to the Nevada law. Botros had four cases pending when he spoke to Vanguard in February.
Digging into the fine print
When not busy with litigation, Botros has been updating the company’s terms and conditions. For instance, Budget asks its customers for liability insurance coverage information; it also holds them responsible for damages up to the full value of the vehicle if they decline collision and loss damage waiver coverage.
“That update is very important for us and for our customers,” Botros says. “The goal is to have really an accurate sense of: What are they responsible for when they get behind the wheel? What are the things that we expect of them, and what can they expect of us?”
Botros has also been working on renewing the Las Vegas franchise’s agreements with Avis Budget Group, Budget’s parent company. Avis Budget, which also owns Zipcar, has more than 11,000 locations in roughly 180 countries, with revenues of around $3.5 billion and 21,000 total employees.
“That’s obviously a huge part of my day,” Botros says. “Because it has big implications. The process of renewing a franchise agreement for a company with one of the biggest fleets of vehicles in America is an enormous task that involves the President of Budget Las Vegas, Thomas P. Mallo, the Chief Financial Officer, Chris Itzen, and myself working round the clock.”
Cutting his teeth
A graduate of San Jose State University, where he earned his BA in political science in 2001, Botros went to law school in Australia, getting his law degree from the University of Sydney in 2006.
He accepted his first legal role in 2011, serving as associate counsel for Yellow Checker Star Transportation, one of Las Vegas’ biggest cab companies, before rising to become senior litigation counsel for the company by 2017.
While at Yellow Checker Star, Botros handled litigation involving accidents. In Clark County, where Las Vegas is located, taxicab drivers must be full-time employees of the cab company, not independent contractors. So, whenever a driver got into an accident, Botros would defend them and the company against lawsuits.
“Basically, I cut my teeth in transportation law and insurance defense by doing that for so long,” Botros says. “And I got so much experience, because the amount of filing of accident lawsuits involving taxicabs, in a 24/7 town—you can imagine.”
From there, he moved on to private practice, becoming a partner at Resnick & Louis, a Las Vegas law firm that handles insurance defense cases. Recruited by the firm because of his experience in transportation law, Botros says he dealt with “the entire spectrum” of insurance companies while there, representing many of the Uber drivers in town.
The experience taught him how to manage staff working directly within his team and how to delegate tasks to others, which he applies to his current role.
“My extensive experience in litigation and insurance defense—in particular, specializing in transportation law—has given me the necessary skills and confidence to deal with a very complex issue,” Botros says. “This experience, and the research that I’ve conducted for almost two years now, has made me an expert on The Graves Amendment.”
View this feature in the Vanguard Spring II 2023 Edition here.
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