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You likely could not sue for breach of contract because of the privity principle you've identified, but that does not matter because here the cause of action is based on general principles of negligence. No privity of contract should be required because you are not suing based on theories of contract. Moreover, to hold that privity bars you from suing would lead to the ridiculous result of someone suing and obtaining compensation for damages to a car they don't even own. that makes no sense at all.
To be honest this is a fairly basic point and I am surprised the judge was confused. Privity should not apply, period.
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I was actually going to type up a similar analogy. It makes perfect sense. It's not as though the existence of a contract excuses the carrier from damages they inflict onto third parties as a result of their negligence.