Permission To Operate The Vehicle (Permissive Driver)

Weatherford Attorneys and those in Springtown, Aledo, Azle, Willow Park, Hudson Oaks, Brock, Millsap, Cool, Mineral Wells, and other places in Parker County need to know how the courts look at and determine whether or not someone is a “permissive driver” under an insurance policy.
The Eastland Court of Appeals issued an opinion in 2006, that looked at this issue. The style of the case is, Gary Arkinson v. Nancy Snodgrass and Texas Farm Bureau Insurance. Here is some background:
Gary Atkinson sued Nancy Snodgrass and Texas Farm Bureau Insurance to recover damages he sustained in a motor vehicle accident with Ted Horn. Atkinson alleged that Snodgrass negligently entrusted a vehicle to Horn and that Farm Bureau was responsible for a default judgment that he had taken against Horn. The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment. The trial court granted Snodgrass and Farm Bureau’s motion for summary judgment and dismissed Atkinson’s claims against them.Snodgrass asked Horn to repair her pickup’s transmission. She drove the pickup to Horn’s residence and left it with the keys. Horn eventually returned the pickup to Snodgrass and represented that the transmission had been repaired. Snodgrass test-drove the pickup and discovered that it still did not shift properly. She told Horn that this was unacceptable and that she wanted her pickup repaired. Horn drove the pickup back to his house. Two days later, Horn and his daughter drove the pickup to Lake Brownwood — approximately forty-five miles from his house — and were involved in an accident with Atkinson.
One of the issues for the trial court was whether or not Horn was a permissive user of the vehicle. Because Snodgrass was insured by Farm Bureau, if Horn was a permissive user at the time of the accident, he had coverage under her policy. Horn had express permission to drive the pickup to and from Snodgrass’s home or business and his residence. There is no direct evidence that he had express permission to drive the pickup to Lake Brownwood.
In Texas, the Supreme Court has adopted the minor deviation rule to determine whether use not expressly authorized may still be permissive use under an automobile policy.
The Supreme Court adopted the minor deviation rule to determine whether use not expressly authorized may still be permissive use under an automobile policy. This rule recognizes three categories of deviations.
1) First are deviations so slight that a fact issue is not raised on whether permission was revoked.
2) Second are deviations of more significance which raise a fact question.
3) Third are deviations that are so gross as to destroy the initial permission as a matter of law.
The Supreme Court has instructed courts that the determination of whether a deviation is material requires consideration of the extent of the deviation in terms of actual distance, time, or purpose. Horn’s trip to Lake Brownwood deviated from Snodgrass’s actual permission in two of these three respects. Snodgrass gave Horn her pickup so that he could repair it. Activities such as traveling from his residence to hers or test-driving it to verify the repair would fit this purpose — taking the pickup to Lake Brownwood to eat supper with his daughter does not.
In making the ruling, this court stated, “We hold, as a matter of law, Horn was not a permissive user when he took a pickup that had been entrusted to him for a transmission repair to Lake Brownwood on a personal mission.”
An experienced Insurance Law Attorney needs to be consulted when an insurance company denies a claim based on issues regarding whether a driver of a vehicle was a “permissive driver” or not.