Permission To Use Car And Insurance Law

If you live in Grand Prairie, Arlington, Fort Worth, Mansfield, Duncanville, De Soto, Hurst, Euless, Bedford, Aledo, Azle, Weatherford, or anywhere else in Texas and a friend or acquaintance uses your car and has a wreck is there coverage? This posting and the two following will show what has happened in three previous cases.
In 1966, the Texas Supreme Court, in the case, Royal Endemnity Company v. H.E. Abbott & Sons, Inc., had this question before them in a case.
In this case, a 1961 pickup truck owned by Jack Herring and driven by George K. Landers ran into and damaged a building owned by H.E. Abbott & Sons, Inc. The truck was insured by a liability policy issued by Royal Indemnity Company. The insurance policy with Royal had a clause extending coverage to anyone operating the truck with Herring’s implied permission. In the lawsuit, Abbott obtained a judgment against Landers then sued Royal to enforce its judgment.
The case turns upon whether Landers was using the truck with the permission of Herring. There is no alligation that Landers had express permission to use the truck, but the jury found that Landers had Herring’s implied permission to be using the truck.
The relevant facts are that Landers was hired by Herring on April 18, 1963, to work on Herring’s ranch which was located some 14 miles from the city of Ballinger, Texas. Landers had a drivers license. Landers was paid monthly, plus his room and board, and lived in a small house on the ranch. Originally, Landers was to prepare his own meals but he soon began eating with the Herring family in the main ranch house. He often prepared his meals there when the Herrings were not at home.
Herring owned three vehicles: a ranch truck, which was unlicensed and intended for use on the ranch only, the 1961 pickup truck, and a passenger vehicle. Landers had permission to use the ranch truck, but only on the ranch. Herring always drove the 1961 pickup truck. Landers had permission to use the 1961 truck only if the ranch truck was being prepared and Herring was not using it. The keys were always left in both vehicles.
On the day of the wreck Herring and Landers had made a trip, with Herring driving, in the 1961 pickup. At the end of the day, Herring and his family left the ranch to spend the night. Landers had told Herring that a friend was coming to get Landers and the two were going to go to San Angelo. This plan did not materialize and Landers ended up leaving the ranch in the 1961 pickup and the wreck eventually occurred.
Upon learning of the wreck, Herring went to see Landers and threatened to “beat the stuffing” out of him. Plus he threatened to file charges against Landers.
On three or four previous occassions prior to the accident, Landers had driven one of the vehicles off the ranch to pick up the Herring children at a school bus stop some five miles from the ranch house. These were the only times Landers had driven off the ranch, and on each occassion he was expressly instructed by Herring to pick up the children. Herring had never told him to use the vehicles off the ranch. Landers had no car of his own, and Herring always took him to town whenever Landers wanted to go.
In this case, the jury hearing the case decided that Landers had the implied permission of Herring to use the vehicle at the time of the wreck. The Texas Supreme Court decided that the weight of the evidence was against such a finding and reversed the decision of the jury, ruling that the great weight of the evidence was against such a finding.
Here is what the court stated in making the above finding:
“In the present case the evidence shows neither a relationship nor a prior course of conduct from which implied permission might fairly be inferred. Landers was employed as a ranch hand. He had never driven one of the vehicles off the ranch except when specifically instructed to do so, and had never used any of them for a personal errand. His employer had always driven him to town whenever he wanted to go, and had no reason to believe that he intended or might need to use one of the vehicles on the evening of the accident. In view of these undisputed facts, the limited privileges Landers was allowed in the Herring house, his occassional pleasure trips with Herring, the availability of the vehicles, his use of the same on the ranch, Herring’s inquiry about his driver’s license, and the absence of any prior instruction not to take the vehicles off the ranch, afford no basis for concluding that Landers had implied permission to use the truck for a trip to San Angelo on a personal mission.”
These types of cases are fact driven and have to be looked at on an individual basis.