In a case of first impression, Judge Bernstein of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County recently ruled in Nationwide Insurance v. Geico Insurance, that automobile insurance extends to a woman’s son’s girlfriend despite the fact that the woman had not given the driver permission to use her vehicle.
The owner of a vehicle insured with Nationwide allowed her adult son to use her vehicle while attending college at Temple University. The owner did not provide her son with any restrictions regarding car usage. The son kept the vehicle at an apartment which he shared with his girlfriend. The son gave his girlfriend permission to operate the vehicle on 8-10 occasions. However, the owner had never expressly permitted the girlfriend to use the vehicle. In fact, the owner was unaware that her son’s girlfriend was operating this vehicle on occasion. Of note, the owner and the girlfriend were well acquainted and the owner knew that the girlfriend lived with her son.
As this issue was one of first impression, Judge Bernstein cited a case out of the U.S. Court of Appeals which held, as a matter of fact rather than as a matter of law, that an owner’s brother giving permission to use a vehicle to a friend was sufficient to find permissive use coverage. National Grange Mutual Liability v. Metroka, 250 F.2d 933 (1958). Judge Bernstein also cited the Virginia case of Virginia Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance v. Appalachian Power, 321 S.E. 2d 84 (1984), wherein owner gave his son permission to use a vehicle at college without restrictions. The Virginia court held that the son had implied consent to permit others to use the vehicle. Judge Bernstein found that, “[t]he jurisprudence regarding subsequent grants of permission is especially favorable to the unrestricted original permitted driver when that permitted driver is a child of the named insured.”