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Jury will have to decide implied consent issue where kids use RV during party

Sandra Williams' daughter hosted a party at Williams' property on the lake.  There were allowed access to the boats and other "toys" and used the RV to haul gas from the garage to the boats.  One of the kids eventually ran over another kid with the RV, causing injuries that resulted in partial amputation of a leg.  Williams defended the claim by arguing that she never consented to the operation of the RV by the drunken boy.  She did acknowledge that she had granted her children access to "the  boats and toys;" that the keys were in the RV; and that she had consented to her son the use of the RV to tote gas.  There was a dispute between the son and the kid who caused the injury over whether the son had allowed access to the RV by party-goers.

The trial court relied on Ms. Williams' testimony in holding that she did not consent to drunken kids using the RV.  On appeal the three judges of the appellate court reversed the lower court and sent the case back for trial.  Under the law, a vehicle registrant is responsible for injuries caused by a negligent driver unless the vehicle was taken without consent.  Where consent is given, but with verbal restrictions or limitations, the owner is held responsible if the limitations are exceeded. 

The judges noted that the testimony was conflicting and created a factual scenario pursuant to which consent to operate the RV could be implied:  it would be up to the jurors to apply the law to the facts and determine whether the operator enjoyed implied consent. Since the son enjoyed "free rein of all the equipment" and the operator claimed that the son has passed that consent on, the owner will be responsible if the jury believes that testimony.

Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
309 East Front Street
Traverse City, Michigan 49684
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