The Keys on the Table

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Q: My father leased a car for me.  One weekend, I left the car at my mom’s house and went to stay with friends.  I left my set of keys on a table so that my mother could move the car.  Shortly after I left, my sister, her boyfriend and a friend arrived.  They took the keys, went out to the car and listened to the radio.

Then her boyfriend put the car in reverse and started driving.  Eventually, he lost control.

A: The Vehicle and Traffic Law imputes to the owner of a car the negligence of any person who uses or operates it with the owner’s permission.  There is a presumption that any vehicle is being operated with the owner’s consent, although this presumption may be rebutted by substantial evidence to the contrary.

Your father will testify that, other than himself, you were the only person entitled to the unrestricted use of the car, and that no one else had or was to be given permission to use it.  But, even if not contradicted, this testimony does not necessarily warrant a court in dismissing him from the case.

Sometimes, because of improbability, interest of the witnesses or other weakness, testimony may reasonably be disregarded by the jury.

Disavowals by an owner, lessor and the driver, without more, do not automatically result in summary judgment for the owner or lessor.  Where there is any evidence suggesting implausibility, collusion or implied permission, the issue of consent should go to a jury.  That is what the victim’s attorney will argue.

By: Scott Baron,
Attorney at Law Advertorial

The law responds to changed conditions; exceptions and variations abound. Here, the information is general; always seek out competent counsel. This article shall not be construed as legal advice.

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