Stolen Car or Implied Consent? Look Beyond the Driver’s Seat (NJ)
During a night of imbibing, Galvan-Martinez asked his good friend Munoz for a ride to work the following morning. Munoz responded non-committedly, stating that he would “if he had time.” A few drinks later, Munoz walked home, leaving his keys behind. The next morning Munoz received a phone call from his friend advising that he had driven Munoz’s vehicle to work and been involved in an accident.
Munoz’s insurance carrier High Point denied coverage for the accident, finding that Galvan-Martinez was not a permissive driver of the vehicle. They pointed out that Munoz never affirmatively gave Galvan-Martinez permission to use the vehicle, and Galvan-Martinez was not even a licensed driver. The trial court agreed.
On appeal, the New Jersey Appellate Court disagreed with the trial court’s decision, noting that Munoz knew he left his keys with a good friend, knew that his friend needed a ride the next day, and did not retrieve his keys the following morning. Accordingly, a juror could reasonably conclude that Galvan-Martinez had implied permission to use the vehicle.
This case confirms that the court will view the facts in the light most favorable to the plaintiff when assessing whether a driver had implied permission to use a vehicle.
Please contact Heather Aquino with any questions.