In the case Garrioch v Sonex Construction Ltd., 2017 ABCA 105, the Alberta Court of Appeal recently reviewed the law in respect of how far automobile insurance travels to cover various drivers. In this case, the issue to be determined was whether the driver of the vehicle had insurance coverage arising from the corporate owner of the vehicle after the driver caused a single vehicle rollover accident while stunting.
The driver of the vehicle was a former employee of the company that owned the vehicle. At the time of the accident, one of the supervisors of the company gave the vehicle to the employee to take for work purposes. The supervisor did not know that the employee did not have a drivers licence and accordingly the employee gave the keys to the ultimate driver of the car to drive.
The Court had to assess whether the passing along of the keys amounted to continuing on the chain of consent for driving the vehicle. The Court found three scenarios in which may or may not amount to consent passing along:
(a) the owner may expressly permit the second party to give possession to third parties, in the second party’s discretion;
(b) the owner may say nothing about passing on possession to third parties. Permission to pass possession to third parties may still be implied from the context, the onus being on the plaintiff to prove implied consent;
(c) the owner may expressly make it a condition that the second party is not to pass on possession to third parties.
The Court ultimately determined that the only reasonable inference to be determined from the facts is that the Company did not give the employee permission to pass on possession of the vehicle to others, and certainly not to those who were not employees of the company.
Ultimately, cases of this nature always turn on the facts and must be assessed on a case by case basis. However, in reality it is important to be very careful if one is going to be operating someone else’s vehicle to be sure to have the consent from the owner to do so prior to stepping behind the wheel.