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Shuck v. Means

    Brief Fact Summary. An automobile owned by Hertz, leased to George A. Codling (Codling) and driven by David Lynn Means (Means) struck an automobile in which Shuck was a passenger. Means was uninsured and the parties stipulated he had been negligent.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. Under the Minnesota Safety Responsibility Act (the Act), when an owner gives permission to another to drive his car, who in turn gives permission to a third party, the owner will be liable for accidents caused by the third person.

    Facts. An automobile owned by Hertz, leased to Codling and driven by Means, struck an automobile in which the Shuck was a passenger. Means was uninsured and the parties stipulated that he had been negligent.

    Issue. Is a car rental agency liable under the Act when one of its cars is leased to one person, but operated by another in violation of the rental agreement?

    Held. Yes. Judgment affirmed.
    * Under the Act [Minn.St.1965, Section: 170.54], an owner-consent statute was enacted establishing liability in the owner of a vehicle for accidents caused by another driving the vehicle with the owners’ express or implied consent. The purpose of the Act was to give injured persons more assurance of recovery and to encourage owners to purchase appropriate liability insurance.
    * In Foster v. Bock, 229 Minn. 428, 39 N.W.2d 862 (1949), this Court held that it would not read into the statute that the particular driver must be known by and his driving consented to by the owner. Proving a lack of consent when a permittee allows a subpermittee to drive requires a showing either that the car was being used by a permittee without the owner’s knowledge and contrary to his explicit instructions, or that the subpermittee was driving without the permission of the permittee under conditions that approach conversion or theft. Neither of these situations is apparent under the present facts.

    Discussion. The need for owner-consent statutes has lessened because of “omnibus clauses” in standard automobile liability insurance clauses, providing that the insurance applies to anyone using the automobile with the permission of the owner.


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