Implied Permission To Use A Car

Grand Prairie insurance lawyers who deal with auto insurance need to know how the courts treat cases dealing with “implied permission” in a car insurance situation.
A 1967, Corpus Christi Court of Appeals case is still good law on this issue. The style of the case is, The Phoenix Insurance Company v. Allstate Insurance Company.
Here is some of the relevant information.
The material facts in evidence are undisputed. At all times relevant here, Phoenix was the insurer of a car owned by the named insured Ralph Gilster, Jr. On or about June 25, 1964, Father Wallace J. Stiles, assistant pastor and Youth Director of St. Mary’s Church, contacted Gilster for the purpose of borrowing this car on June 27th to return to their homes in Victoria six girls who were attending a Summer School. Borrowing the car and returning the girls to their homes in Victoria was in line with Father Stiles’ duties as Youth Director, a fact which Gilster well knew. He had on a number of other occasions borrowed Gilster’s car for out of town trips in connection with such duties. Gilster knew the purpose for which Father Stiles wanted the car, and readily agreed with his request. Nothing was said between the two as to who would drive the car during the trip, nor had anything been said as to who should drive on any of the other occasions that Gilster had let Father Stiles use the car in his church work. Gilster testified that as a matter of fact, he didn’t give the matter any thought; though he further stated that he considered that Father Stiles would be the one to take the car, use it, and bring it back. The words ‘use’ and ‘borrow’ were the terms used in the conversation between Gilster and Stiles, and no reference was made by either party as to who would actually operate the car.
Two days before the trip to Corpus Christi, Father Stiles asked James DeLane to drive on this trip. It was agreed by both of the parties that Gilster had not given express permisson for James to drive; but Father Stiles after testifying about the former times he had borrowed Gilster’s car for such trips, on which occasions some one other than himself had driven, stated that he believed it all right that DeLane drive. James, 16 years of age. He had obtained his drivers’ license two years before this, and frequently on these Church trips drove for Father Stiles, who considered him a very good and careful driver. On the morning of June 27th, James went to the Gilster residence, got the car keys from a servant and drove the car to the Rectory where he picked up Father Stiles, and they proceeded to Corpus Christi. They got the six girls and, with James DeLane driving, went back to Victoria. Father Stiles then instructed James to let him off at the Rectory where he had some church duties to perform, and to take the girls to their homes and then to return the car to Gilster’s home. While the girls were being delivered to their homes, an accident occurred between the car driven by James and one driven by Sandra Lou Barr and owned by her father. James had not deviated from his route at any time, and at the time of the accident was engaged in carrying out the instructions of Father Stiles, and in executing the purpose for which the car had been borrowed from Gilster. At a meeting between Gilster, Father Stiles and James DeLane in Gilster’s office two or three days after the accident Gilster made no adverse comment on the fact that James was driving at the time of the accident.
One of the arguments in this case was whether or not any endorsements or exclusions in the policy prohibited coverage under the facts of this case.
The court said the trial court was justified by the evidence in finding that Father Stiles had the implied consent of Gilster to permit another to drive the car on this occasion, and that the driving of the car by James DeLane at the time of the accident was within the purview of such implied permission. Gilster had on several other instances loaned the car for use by Father Stiles in connection with his work with the Catholic Youth Organization, and had never expressed any limitation or any particular interest as to who should actually drive the car on such occasions. By his very silence the trial court could reasonably assume that, by reason of their past dealings and the circumstances of the case, Gilster had confidence in the good priest’s discretion and judgment as to such matter, and realized or should have realized that he might delegate the driving to some other competent person. This court can judicially note that it is not unusual for members and friends of church organizations to loan their cars on special occasions for use by the organization or its leader for out of town trips without designating who shall drive. The court kept in mind that the car was loaned for the Use of Father Stiles in his church and Youth Director capacity, and ‘use’ is the term used in the omnibus clause.
Citing law related to Automobile Insurance, this court pointed out it has frequently been stated that, as a general rule, the permission given by the named insured to another to use the named insured’s car does not authorize the permittee to allow a third party to use the car, and that if the permittee does allow a second permittee to use the car, such use is not with the permission of the named insured’ as those words are used in the omnibus clause. However, the effect of this strict rule has been greatly diluted by reason of the fact that many of the courts recognizing the rule have substantially modified it by stating that in every case where the first permittee permits another to use the insured automobile, a factual determination must be made whether the initial grant of permission was broad enough to include an implied grant to the permittee of authority to give another use of the automobile and thus render the latter an additional insured under the omnibus clause. A rule distinct from the above, though not in conflict with it, is that where permission has been granted for a specific use, the permittee may have implied authority to delegate permission, but that such authority is restricted to granting permission for the same use for which the initial permission was given.

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